Lately, I have read a lot of books set in a grim and far too realistic future. Reality 36 is a great example of such a book. Global warming and war have ravaged our planet. Conditions are improving under the guidance of the AIs who have been given control. Europe and the US have given AIs human rights whereas China have forbidden them completely. Along with the amendment of rights of artificial sentients the 36 Reality Realm online game is made off limits to humans. Even orcs and goblins have rights, but enough with the exposition, let's get down to business.
Inside Reality 36 safety protocols have been activated. An intrusion from the outside has been detected and the realm's guardians are summoned.
Veronique Valdaire is sleeping. Or trying to sleep at least. Her digital companion, Chloe, is doing her best to wake her up. She has several missed calls from her boss, the professor, it's urgent and they need to talk. The chirpy bombardment of wakeup calls from Chloe is finally enough to get her out of bed. Wearily, she makes her way down to the office. The professor is nowhere to be found and the building's AI complains over a malfunction, it has been disconnected from parts of the building. He did however leave a message for her, but it is not good news. Then the reception informs her that VIA spooks, agency that protects and monitors AIs, are on their way up to see her. Not good news.
Richards is in a lovely garden, talking to his old friend Hughie. Hughie is one of the most powerful AIs in the world and he hates being called Hughie. Which is why Richards has given him that nickname, he needs to be taken down a peg or two. Today Richards is looking for a favor. Hughie is responsible for the European internal security and he owes Richards a favor. In return for a favor Hughie only asks that Richards performs one small task for him. A high profile person has been murdered on a yacht, but Hughie's investigators have not found anything. The yacht is still quarantined at sea pending further investigation, no one has been allowed on or off.
It all turns out to be more than just a simple favour and Richards and Kleins will be stretched to the limit of their abilities.
Reality 36 is the kind of book that seems to have been written with me as the target audience. Guy Haley is the new author I have been waiting for. It has the intense action of a Neal Asher book, you can almost feel the shockwave of explosions and the impact of blows. There is a great dynamic between Richards and Otto. Richards is enthusiastic, full of life, cheeky and always offers a interesting opinion on events. He loves taking the piss out of those in high places, and especially his friend Hughie. I love it how Guy Haley choose to dress him in trench coat and hat like a chirpy alternative to Sam Spade.
For a man without genitals, he was an enormous penis, but he was also the finest virtual horticulturalist, and a great baker. - Richards describing Hughie while having tea in Hughie's gardenOtto, he is the opposite side of the coin. Jaded, serious and a no nonsense person. He does not play around. There is also a gentle side to Otto, something you might not expect from a half metal, half flesh killing machine. Together, Richards and Otto are really great and good fun. I found it easy to engage with the characters and feel sympathetic to them.
Another strong point of Reality 36 is the world building. A lot of thought and detail has gone into Haley's scarred version of earth. Throughout the book we are given more and more information about the state of the world and how it ended up this way. This careful drip-feed of information is great, the plot never takes second place to the exposition and pace is maintained at all times. Speaking of the plot, it's complex enough to keep you interested and guessing what is going to happen next, without getting confusing.
Guy Haley has adopted a Gibsonesque version of cyberspace. A user is required to 'jack-in', and once 'in there' the dangers are very real. The feedback from a death in cyberspace can, and has, kill a person. No mentions of Black Ice, but there are some equally dangerous counter measures deployed in Reality 36.
The eels were ugly, ribbons of nothing undulating through the blaze and fury of the web.Unless you hate fun, stop what you are doing and pick up Reality 36. It's an action packed book, riddled with armour piercing wit and incredibly entertaining. On a more serious note, Reality 36 does a big think on the issues raised by the existence of Articial Intelligence in society. I cannot wait to read the next Richards and Klein case, Omega Point, due to be released in 2012.
Reality 36 weighs in at 384 pages and is published by Angry Robot. The book will be available in stores from August 4th 2011.
Recommendation: must read