Combining the life-enhancing possibilities of biological nano-technology with a society where the only thing that has changed is what currency the rich horde and a vein of dark humour, Vicino has created a worthy successor to classic cyberpunk.
In a radical solution to the threat of anthropogenic environmental collapse, years of life have become currency. Tom used to be one of the police officers who ensured time wasn’t stolen, but the death of his wife and hundreds of others in the biggest time theft in history sent him spiralling into drug addiction. When the man who killed them escapes from prison, Tom’s old partner convinces him to join the hunt. But with only a day to live and little to live for, revenge might not be enough to keep him going.
Although Vicino’s world shares the idea of life as currency with a certain Hollywood blockbuster, that is where the comparisons end. The life timers in this story are both a logical extension of a world that has made a technological leap and only one advanced technology in a world of many. In addition, the history that made radically controlling human population the least worst option is provided to the reader. In combination, these move the idea of time is money from an interesting hook to a plausible (if distant) evolution of the real world.
This produces a world packed with interesting technology. However, Vicino does not let the techno-porn do the heavy lifting. While the challenges and benefits of his new world shape the plot, this is a character-driven story rather than a series of shiny new toys making pretty explosions faster than the enemy’s shiny toys.
The only potential judder in the otherwise high-speed ride comes in an epilogue that transforms aspects of the emotionally satisfying ending into uncertainties to be covered in the next book. This undercutting of the reader’s sense of completion could leave them feeling flat, so it might preserve enjoyment more to leave the epilogue unread until starting the sequel.
Tom is as well crafted as the world around him. Exploiting the difference in how the mind perceives active suicidal behaviour and passive non-resistance to impending death, Vicino creates a protagonist who is plausibly both self-destructive and motivated to survive.
From the ex-partner who can’t decide between friendship and contempt to the deadpan thug built like a brick wall, the supporting characters are all recognisable as stock characters in film noir and its successors. But, as with the world and protagonist, Vicino uses these familiar images as the reader’s initial point of connection to more complex personalities rather than the defining quality.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking grimy sci-fi or a fast-paced techno-thriller.
I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair review.