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Apocalypse Array
Lyda Morehouse
Roc, 337 pages

Apocalypse Array
Lyda Morehouse
Lyda Morehouse was born in 1967 in Sacramento, California. Her family moved shortly after to LaCrosse, Wisconsin. In 1985, she attended Augsburg College in the Twin Cities and she settled permanently there. At college, she received BAs in English and History. She teaches cartooning on a semi-regular basis through Eden Prairie Community Education and is employed at the Minnesota Historical Society. She won the Barnes & Noble "Maiden Voyage Award" for her debut novel, Archangel Protocol.

Lyda Morehouse Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Messiah Node
SF Site Review: Fallen Host
SF Site Review: Fallen Host
SF Site Review: Archangel Protocol

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Lyda Morehouse turns in the fourth entry in her popular series about God, angels, VR, and AIs.

In the late twenty-first century, just about everyone is LINKed -- hooked up through a nexus implanted at birth to the electronic realm where all commerce, education, communication, and entertainment now takes place. At the same time, paradoxically, there has been a backlash against science, in the wake of the horrible Medusa bombs that devastated hundreds of cities in the last Great War. Governments have become theocracies, with men and women unable to hold political position unless they also hold religious rank, and a multi-national Inquisition taking the place of the international police force, Interpol. Restrictive laws bind the population: in the USA, for instance, women can't wear trousers, and homosexuality is a crime.

Within this hyper-pious world, where everyone's busy interpreting the word of God in ways that best suit their own prejudice and expedience, the stuff of real divinity plays out. Angels walk the earth -- some on God's business, some who are part of the host of the Fallen -- and Lucifer, a.k.a. Sammael Morningstar, meddles in the course of history. Diedre McMannus, ex-cop and private eye, has encountered Morningstar before -- and also the archangel Michael, who back in Archangel Protocol fathered her daughter, Amariah. Amariah, now a teenager, may be the Messiah. But she and her mom really just want to live a normal life, or as normal as life can be in an outlaw kibbutz at the edge of one of the Medusa-devastated areas of New York, populated by a motley assortment of characters that include Mouse, an internationally-wanted cyber criminal whose electronic alter-ego, Page, is one of the world's only two AIs, and the cross-dressing archangel Uriel.

When Michael turns up again, wanting Diedre to take him back, Diedre's not too thrilled. She knows he loves her and Amariah, but his divine substance can't tolerate human form for long, and she's tired of dealing with the pain of separation. Besides, she's starting to realize how attracted she is to Mouse, her onetime adversary, who long ago fell deeply in love with her. She doesn't have much time to think about relationships, however, because she's involved in a tricky missing persons case that may have something to do with a new LINK game that reportedly turns young people into zombies. Could the game be yet another instrument of Armageddon? Meanwhile, Dragon, the world's other AI, has been downsized by her Yakuza creators. For the first time this faithful servant begins to question her thralldom, and in doing so, discovers something dark at the heart of her masters' electronic empire. As for Morningstar, he's sure he has found the Antichrist in his lover Emmaline, a rogue Inquisitor who abandoned her vows to follow him. Now a figure of enormous influence and political power, Emmaline expands her dominion through good works and calls for change in the oppressive theocratic system of world government, all the while secretly working to fulfill the prophecies of the Antichrist. It was all Morningstar's idea, of course. But increasingly he finds himself sidelined, and he doesn't like it...

Like the other books in this series, Apocalypse Array is an unusual synthesis of elements: part cyberpunk, part satire, part serious exploration of religious themes. Some aspects of the setting are a little iffy -- the world's near-total theocratic transformation is a lot to swallow, even given a serious war-induced hostility toward science; also, in a world so fanatically opposed to scientific inquiry that practicing scientists have been forced underground, why would the LINK continue to dominate so absolutely, and Inquisitors be turned into cyborgs? But others work very well. Morehouse creates a convincingly gritty cyberpunkish atmosphere, and draws on the traditions and symbology of many different religions to create her angels and demons, and to explore both the imminence and the repeated deferment of Armageddon. The contrast between this literally real divine presence and the very un-divine things that people do in the name of organized religion allows her to both condemn and lampoon the hypocrisy that can rise from piety.

There's also an intelligent examination of free will and self-determination, especially through the two AIs, Page and Dragon, who grow and are transformed by experience as much as any of the human characters. Dragon, who has been a key but relatively minor player in previous books, comes into her own in Apocalypse Array, discovering, as Page discovered earlier, the pain and joy of separating herself from her creators. Morehouse's evocation of the experience of an electronic creature in the strange realm of the LINK, where all appearances and interactions are illusions generated by ones and zeroes, is very effective.

Apocalypse Array is as entertaining as its predecessors, with snappy dialogue, a fast-paced plot that serves up some nice surprises, and many well-drawn characters -- Amariah, the teenage Messiah, an engaging blend of stubbornness, uncertainty, and conviction; Diedre, both hardheaded and vulnerable; Mouse, sly and self-serving but as oddly likable as ever (it's really nice to see a sympathetic portrayal of a practicing Muslim); and of course the magnetic Morningstar, notable not just for his demonic powers but for his sardonic sense of humor. Things come full circle with this book, from Deidre's and Michael's romance and Amariah's destiny to the downfall of the theocracies and even, possibly, a change in the world's dependence on the LINK (one of Emmaline's many reforms is a return to face-to-face interaction -- revolutionary in a world accustomed to interfacing electronically). But there's certainly much more in store, especially for Amariah and the newly-liberated Dragon. Will there be more books in the series? Fans can only hope, and in the meantime, relish this lively and thought-provoking new installment. (New readers be warned, though: this is not a standalone novel, as much of its impact depends on knowledge of the foregoing story. Those who aren't familiar with Morehouse should go back to the first book, Archangel Protocol, and read this fine series through from the start.)

Copyright © 2004 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Burning Land, is available from HarperCollins Eos. For more information, visit her website.

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