"Crashing Heaven" was one of the best sci-fi debuts of last year. With hints of Iain M. Banks and Alaistair Reynolds but still with plenty to make it its own, this astonishing debut instantly made Al Robertson a formidable force to be reckoned with. To further prove the point here's "Waking Hell", "Crashing Heaven"'s sequel and a second installment in a series chronicling the events around Station, humanity's last outpost (and some might say its last chance).
In future the dead are not completely dead but have reached evolutionary point where consciousness can be preserved and a person can continue living through the wires. Utilizing an elaborate technology that involves the use of holograms and weaves, reality itself can be redefined and can become whatever you wish it be - that is if you have the funds. And funds are exactly what Leila Fenech is missing. She is dead and is living as virtual entity and while her terminally ill brother Dieter is alive, he has lost a chance to have a decent afterlife due to insurance scam he fell for and which caused him to lose all his digital memories - a future equivalent of Nigerian prince, so to speak. Leila proceeds to investigate the case and slowly uncovers the plot that could threaten not just her and Dieter but the entire Station. What starts slowly ends up being a wildly exciting rollercoaster ride packed with thrills through the world in which the borders between physical and virtual have been completely blurred and where the Gods is software. It's all very highly conceptual and very readable, written in a story that reminded me a lot of another underrated and sadly forgotten science fiction series - Eric Brown's Bengal Station.
Even though "Waking Hell" is technically a second book in the series you will have no issues by not having read the first one. "Waking Hell" has a different cast of characters and Station is a place that organically evolves through time so even the constant readers will be slightly disoriented. It's a wonderful place that's worth exploring at ease - it seems like even Robertson seems to appreciate this, filling the first part of the books with less action and more character and setting development.
"Waking Hell" is anything but a difficult second novel. If anything, there seems to be lightness to Robertson's writing. "Waking Hell" proves once again that he has plenty to offer to readers looking for intelligent science fiction filled with engaging characters, drama, emotions and advanced technology. Very recommended.
Review copy provided by Gollancz
Order Waking Hell by Al Robertson here:
- Published in Book News