by Tony Ballantyne
Cover Artist: John Blackford
Review by Ernest Lilley
Spectra Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 0553589296
Date: 26 December, 2006 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Article /
Helen is an attractive, spirited woman who finds Kevin, the charismatic guy she's giving a tour of the botanical museum she works fairly irresistible. Pity. What starts out for her as a infatuated frolic in the ferns turns into a virtual nightmare. One which lasts for seventy years of endless variations on torture and dominance games in a VR construct hidden away from the nannyesque security forces of the Environmental Authority, which polices both the atomic (physical) and virtual spaces. When Helen, or at least one implementation of her is rescued by a VR version of one of EA's agents, and finds out what has been done to countless iterations of "her", she decides Kevin should discover that hell, virtual, atomic and existential hath no fury like a woman so abused. From official release/information:
Book Description: Welcome to the year 2252—and congratulations! You're now a personality construct. We know that can be a daunting stage of personal development, especially if you don't remember making this life-changing decision. But we're here to help….
Helen is waking to a dark new reality—one that she's certain she didn't choose. In this borrowed existence, she finds an unexpected guide in Judy, a geisha-faced virgin who's on a mission of her own. Together, the two of them begin a dangerous run through dozens of imagined worlds in an attempt to trap a psychopath haunting the shadowed areas of virtual space—a killer who brutally murdered an earlier version of Helen and who plans to kill again. Meanwhile, Justinian is investigating a peculiar rash of AI suicides on far-off planets—and finds that not only is there more to these "deaths" than he thought, but that they may be linked to his wife Anya's mysterious coma.
In a future where AIs have taken over human life and the Environment Agency runs everything for our own good, the fact that we can live on after physical death as sentient digital beings should have been a good thing. Instead, as Helen and Justinian are about to discover, it just means there are more ways to die.