Copyright 2005 by
I first read this on the 22nd December 2006.
In this resplendent novel, Tony Ballantyne gives us an assured view of
a astonishing future Earth draped in the "Shawl" of
orbiting habitats and with the reality reflected in
an infinity of virtual worlds
Helen is the tough, courageous woman that is chosen, time and again, year after
year as the most enjoyable victim to be tortured into servitude and obedience.
Judy's 1 to 12 are the one real and eleven virtual
police officers dedicated to rescuing Helen in all her incarnations and
chasing down Kevin, the perpetuator of these appalling crimes.
Francis is Judy's superlatively capable robot, Robin to Judy's Batman.
Chris is the robot representative of the Watcher. He's a technological
tour-de-force, an easy master even of the impressive Francis.
And they all sit under the gaze of the watcher, the supposedly benevolent
entity that supervises Earth's morality.
But there's something strange happening on a another planet far away.
Every AI that sets down upon this planet commits suicide. This remarkable
situation has the AIs running scared.
Our protagonist Justinian, accompanied by his baby son and trusty robot Leslie,
has been inveigled into going there to try to solve the problem.
Justinian thought it was his job to counsel the latest AI arrivals who are
in the process of shutting down, and try to identify why they felt they had
to turn themselves off.
That's what he thought. Now he knows differently. Now he knows there's
a darker, altogether more scary purpose.
He and his son are not simply exposed,
but are being offered up as a sacrifice by the AIs that control his world.
and amongst those is his once-faithful Leslie.
This is fab stuff. I found the first few pages a bit familiar and almost
frustrating, but after that the novel took off. It's reminiscent of Varley in
the bright ideas and surprising alternative vision. What a tremendous vision
the Shawl is: a vast, coruscating drapery of habitats enveloping the Earth.
Loaded on the 28th February 2007.