|Orbit Books, 337 pages|
|A review by Ernest Lilley
'It has been a long day,' said Freer ...
'Life-threatening behaviour on the part of rouge Godzilla grunts, augment
... Data-plaque, carcinamotsis of an entire planet, deep personal grief,
survivor guilt, exhaustion, stuff.
Appleseed reprises the lone trader merchant with a fast ship and a willingness to take on dangerous cargo. But Freer -- aka "Stinky" to the artificial intelligences that surround him, merge with his consciousness and crew his ship, the Tile Dance -- is no Han Solo. He's less hero and more human, and thanks to the augmented technology of John Clute's future universe, he's human in ways that we can only struggle to grasp.
When Freer goes planetside to check things out while Tile Dance waits in an orbital docking complex for their next shipping contract to arrive, the world falls into chaos, all it's data systems collapsing progressively. Freer and his AI companions hurl themselves out through a wormhole nexus and clear of the data-plaque behind them, fossilizing an entire solar system and killing billions in the process, a process that may have been aimed at stopping Freer. Better luck next time.
Clute's ideas are so outrageous that it takes a few pages before the size, shape, and nature of his universe starts to become clear. Full reality is what you see when you're hooked into more than human senses, but it's not virtual reality, it's more like extended reality. Remember the time-dilatation shots in The Matrix? You know, when the character jumps into the air and everything stops for a second before they kick the shit out of their opponent? We get that here too, in something called "Augment," in which Freer extends a field around his body that slows and lets him experience faster time -- though with the limits of physics still intact, he can only move at normal rates. Still it's handy, and accounts for why cartoon characters can run off a cliff without falling for a few seconds.
Before the planet Trencher collapsed into chaos, Tile Dance took aboard a pair of artificial intelligences. One is Uncle Sam, a mind superbly capable of protection, strategy and the dance of combat, whether working through the smooth ovoid of the ship or the smooth human muscles of Freer. The other, Vipassana, exists only for one thing, to find its way in the universe, to plot its position backwards and forwards in space and time. Freer himself is a pretty good pilot, typical of his ilk in these sorts of things, but Vipassana is more than good; while Freer has "perfect pitch," Vipassana charts wormholes by "feel."
They also took aboard an alien with four cosmetic breast implants ("Neat," said Freer. "Very arousing for a homo sapiens."), who is supposed to guide them to a planet where devices are grown that clear plaque, which is the contract they took on... even if they didn't know it.
A mythic american folk hero, space war, mega-corporations gone "Godzilla," predecessor species, a space station the size of a small planet, androids, wormholes, artificial intelligences, sex, drugs, and if I check... probably rock and roll. It's all in here in a fast-paced kaleidoscope of classic SF tropes combined with visionary thinking from a man who knows what he's talking about and writes better than a million monkeys armed with a million typewriters for a million years.
If you're lucky enough to be in the UK or Canada, go read it. If you can't wait for Tor to bring it out in the US in Feb 2002, have someone send it to you.
Appleseed may be built on the past, but it tastes like the future.
Ernest Lilley is the Editor and Publisher of SFRevu, a monthly 'zine for science fiction reviews, news and interviews. It can be found at http://www.sfrevu.com.
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