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The Mirrored Heavens
David J. Williams
Bantam Spectra, 401 pages

The Mirrored Heavens
David J. Williams
David J. Williams was born in Hertfordshire, England. He lives in Washington, D.C. The Mirrored Heavens is his first novel.

David J. Williams Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'They burn through corridors, take down doors. They break, turn, charge on up the elevator shafts, climbing as fast as his motors will let them.

Haskell clings tight. She feels minds out there writhing, feels the walls surging past her.'

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The Mirrored Heavens is a first novel which attempts to cross-pollinate the cyberpunk genre with a techno-thriller plot, and Jason Bourne-like action hero adventuring. The year is 2110, and a Second Cold War between the US and the Eurasian Bloc is thawing, until a terrorist group calling themselves Autumn Rain bring down the Phoenix space elevator. An act which, somewhat predictably, launches the world's great military powers on course toward all-out global conflict. Before the tipping point is reached, a Special Forces team are tasked with finding Autumn Rain, and putting a stop to their heinous plans.

The dynamic duo, consisting of Claire Haskell, a Razor, (2110 slang for a hacker), and Jason Marlowe, a Mech, (the armoured minder), aren't really cyberpunk. In fact, they're not punk at all, but representatives of the government. Their mission is to stamp out the fire of change, thus ensuring that political and military power remains in the same hands. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. As things progress, we often see the results of what Haskell does, but for me there was too little of how this was accomplished. The novel is big on ideas, which is sometimes at the expense of characterisation. David J. Williams's one-template-fits-all approach is further hampered by wafer-thin back stories, and too much dialogue where conversational sentences consist of four or fewer words. Williams' writing style is fun, but can also fall prey to a disorienting staccato mix of tenses, with third and second person interchanged as he feels appropriate. There are successes and failures with this technique, most of the latter occurring when the technology and situations concerned were crying out for more detailed breakdowns. Something that readers will either love or hate is that it is virtually impossible to guess many of the convoluted twists and turns cartwheeling through this story. The reason being because there are little or no clues to point the way. Quite often it felt as if the author was churning out plot devices, as and when he felt the need, without bothering to go to the trouble of writing a set up sequence. On the plus side, Williams does well with his action scenes, where his one-inch-punch approach to writing means less is more. While not having the advantage of an artists visualisations to assist him, he did manage to paint interesting graphic pictures in this reader's mind.

The Mirrored Heavens is a good, if not great, first novel. I liked the way that the US military factions are depicted as still being divided against themselves. I liked the set-piece cinematic action sequences, and the way that neither the Razor or the Mech could trust that their memories were real. I wasn't so enamoured with the stilted dialogue, and felt slightly disappointed that the story did not always make the most of the exciting cross-genre framework. Having said that, I was entertained from beginning to end, and congratulate the publisher on finding a new talent. Take a dash of Robert A. Heinlein, season with early William Gibson, baste in Robert Ludlum, and what you get is The Mirrored Heavens. It is by no means an ideal combination, and some readers may not like the mix of influences at all. But I far prefer it to the alternative of the same old names with their same old characters and settings. I have a feeling that there is much more to come from David J. Williams.

Copyright © 2009 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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