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Someone to Watch Over Me
Tricia Sullivan
Bantam Spectra Books, 357 pages

Someone to Watch Over Me

Tricia Sullivan
Tricia Sullivan is also the author of Lethe. She is twenty-nine and lives in London.

Lethe Review
Tanya Brown's Review of Lethe

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

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Tricia Sullivan has won acclaim for her debut novel, Lethe, including a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer for 1996. Her second book takes us to a future where the ultimate form of prostitution is practiced. Wealthy people can become Watchers, inhabiting the bodies of well-paid slaves via a satellite link. In Someone to Watch Over Me we follow the lives of Adrian Reyes and Sabina Lazarich. Adrian has been a host for a Watcher named C, who not only feels and sees what Adrian does, but has developed the ability to communicate with Adrian, and to take over control of his body as well. After being used by C, and feeling betrayed, Adrian wants out. C wants out as well, out of a paralyzed body and permanently into a normal body, instead of just Watching.

Sabina is an artist who is searching for greater inspiration, a chance at true empathy. She befriends Adrian when he is in need of aid and they feel an immediate connection. But Adrian flees, not wanting to get involved with anyone before he has freed himself of C. But C takes an interest in Sabina and lures her to New York. Adrian frees himself of the implant that ties him to C but then finds himself with other problems to face. At the center of these problems is the newest Human Interface Technology (HIT), I, which both C and her competitor, Max, are pursuing. His relationship with Sabina is woven into the plot as well. The story is complex and at times, difficult to follow. C's ability to Watch through others leads to confusion, both for characters and for the reader.

The concept of Watching is an intriguing one. As Adrian describes it:

"... well, you do get a feeling of meaning. Like, the Watcher using you stimulates the part of you that ... you know. Believes in some purpose. Anyway, you get paid really well, and I guess since I knew my Watcher wanted to get something out of my life, I started to live more ... intensely. Take more risks. Like, use my life, not sitting in front of the tv when I could be experiencing something real."
Those who like detailed explanations of the technology in their science fiction will be disappointed in Someone to Watch Over Me. We know that some sort of implant and battery are involved in Watching but we are left wondering about the technology: how far away can you Watch someone? How could someone gain control of another person's body via Watching? Why can't you block the signal to prevent someone from Watching when you don't want them to? Even though Adrian is tracking down the inventors of the new HIT, we don't gain any insights as he finds them.

Sullivan's world seems grim and harsh, like many of the stories set in the cyberpunk genre. Her characters are complex and have human frailties. None of her characters are heroic and, though, several are victims, I found it difficult to sympathize with them. Perhaps that was the intention. Someone to Watch Over Me is part mystery, part action, and unfortunately, confusing. Sullivan's descriptions of martial arts and the action-oriented portions of the book are well-done, which is unfortunate because there are only a few of them. Overall, I would have preferred a more straight-forward story with more action.

Copyright © 1997 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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