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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews


Copyright 2011 by Dan Simmons

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this in 2013 and most recently on the 27th March 2021

When his wife Dara died, Nick Bottom went off the rails. He lost his job as a detective. He abandoned his eleven-year-old son, Val, and left him in the care of the boy's grandfather. He's spent the years since the death addicted to the drug Flashback, reliving this time with Dara.

Now Nakamura, one of the Japanese "advisors" to the US government has summoned him. Nick is told that must revisit the murder investigation that he was running at the time of his wife's death: to identify who killed Nakamura's son.

Escorted by Hideki Sato, Nakamura's head of security, Nick reluctantly revisits the investigation, discovering that there's a lot more at stake then he knew the first time around. He also discovers that his wife was somehow involved with Nakamura's son.

Slowly he comes to learn that his life is forfeit whether or not he identifies the killer. He's already lost his wife but his son still lives. Can he save him?

All this is embedded in a hopeless, anarchic economically-senile America in a dystopian world.

I loved Simmonds' "Hyperion" novels but I wasn't a big fan of this the first time around. It was a bit too much of the detective novel for me. Also, there really are so many post-collapse-America novels around. However, second time around, I realize that while being primarily a detective story, it's also an astonishing vision of hell on Earth, to be frank. It's an appalling world and Dan has ladled on the amazingly imaginative evil and horror to create a repellent wasteland through which our brave protagonist Nick stoically struggles to save his son and solve the case.

And on the subject of horrible, Dan hits us with a brutal, skin-crawling twist as the novel concludes. Quite unnecessary and it left me feeling rather uncomfortable all day, pinching myself every few minutes to check I was awake.

Simmons was on a roll with this book. It's rip-roaring ride that becomes increasingly engrossing as you get drawn into the characters and the plot. I did think the politics were dubious. I'm not a fan of fascism or right-wing thinking in general.

What's it got? One item stands out above all: the talking Vladimir Putin AI T-shirt.

Loaded on the 3rd May 2021.
Cover of Flashback
Cover art by Lynn Johnson, Henri Silberman, Joseph Barrak