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Reckless Sleep (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Paperback]

Roger Levy
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Jun 2001 GOLLANCZ S.F.

A world that is literally falling apart, a fresh take on VR, realistic flawed heroes and a fierce intelligence mark this out as a debut of unusual quality.

London is drowning in volcanic ash and someone is hunting down the survivors of a failed war on our first colony planet. Jon Sciler has to find out who before he is next.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (14 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857988906
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857988901
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,035,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Our planet is falling apart from tectonic palsy in this offbeat debut novel, thanks to crazed fundamentalists eager for the End Times: "The Earth was dead from the moment ReGenesis triggered the chain of nuclear devices it had set along the floor of the Marianas trench in the Pacific Ocean". With fault-lines cracking everywhere and even safe zones like England wracked by tremors and landslips, society is in a sanity-challenged mess. Escape into virtual reality becomes ever more popular.

VR "gamezones" have a special, painful meaning for Far Warriors like reluctant hero Jon Sciler, who were sent to clean out the hostile native life of the colony world Dirangesept. What seemed a simple task, a shoot-'em-up game with Earth's invincible remote-controlled "autoids" pitted against primitives, went horribly, inexplicably wrong. The remnants of Sciler's team returned scarred and publicly shamed.

Now a vengeful serial killer is apparently targeting Far Warrior veterans--at least those who sign up with the VR outfit Maze. Maze is running endless, mysterious tests on its impossibly realistic gameworld Cathar, haunted by magic and presence that even the operators don't understand. Must dying in Cathar always mean dying in reality? Sciler's struggle to make sense of how he is being manipulated by Maze and stranger forces leads to serious danger in and out of VR--for friends as well as himself--eventually uncovering the true legacy of the Dirangesept disaster. A fast-moving, street-wise, intensely paranoid SF thriller. --David Langford --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A stunning debut with a convincing Philip K. Dick cynicism and paranoia

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is the guy's first book (according to the interview he did on the site) and wasn't as polished as it could have been but that is really being picky. This is an exciting read -- I got three quarters of the way through and then read the final bit in one sitting. It's by no means a classic but is one of the better new sci-fi reads around. give a shot, you won't be disappointed.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definately worth a read 27 Nov 2003
I am very picky about my science fiction, so I was pleased to find this offering. As the first review says, it is patchy, but ultimately delivers the goods in a convincing and innovative way. The grim futuristic picture of London during a global meltdown is realistic without being overwhelmingly pessimistic. The characterisation is good and the love story is central to the plot, avoiding the usual sloppy (or soppy) pitfalls when bringing a strong female character into a SF novel such as this. If you're interested in the crossovers between vitual worlds and real ones, particularly in terms of gaming, this book is definately worth a read.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Virtual tosh 5 Nov 2009
By Bill
For all its dystopian leanings (set in a world torn apart by earthquakes and buried ankle-deep in volcanic ash, where the streets are policed by remote-controlled 'trigs' and the populace seek escape in virtually real other worlds), this book is more fantasy than sci-fi, and there are way too many warlords,wolves and magic spells for my liking.

It's very long, confused, repetitive and badly-paced, with tedious passages where not much happens interspersed with brief, muddled, action sequences; several times I had to re-read chapters to try and make sense of them. And when you finally discover the true nature of the Cathar game-world, and learn who is responsible for the deaths of the Far Warriors, the 'explanation' is little more than gibberish.

Levy has been frequently and unjustly compared to Philip K Dick, and the plot of Reckless Sleep owes something to Dick's masterpiece, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, where off-world colonists seek refuge from their harsh living conditions in the virtual suburbia of their Perky Pat layouts. But don't be fooled; on the basis of this novel (apparently his first), Levy has none of Dick's imagination, humour, compassion or literary skill. Maybe his subsequent work is better. The trouble is, Reckless Sleep is such utter twaddle that you probably won't be tempted to find out.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific 23 April 2002
By Victoria Strauss - Published on
Reckless Sleep is set in a near-future world devastated by global eco-terrorism, where tectonic collapse, uncontrolled volcanic eruptions, and release of radioactive waste have made life almost unlivable. In this doomed environment, people turn increasingly to drugs and Virtual Reality games for escape, while the governments of the world try desperately to find some way to save the human race.
Most of the world's hope has been invested in the plan to colonize an Earthlike planet called Dirangesept. When the first expedition ends in disaster, highly-trained soldiers called Far Warriors are sent to re-take the planet. Mind-linked to autoid combat machines which they control from orbit around the planet, the Far Warriors are thought to be invincible. But the savage protectors of the planet--sentient creatures that look like mythological beasts, though everyone who encounters them sees them differently--make short work of the machines. Identifying totally with their autoids, the Far Warriors suffer the machines' destruction as if it were their own. Irreparably scarred in mind and body, they return in defeat to a world that blames them for their failure.
As the novel opens, Jon Sciler, a former Far Warrior as damaged as most but more functional than many, signs up for a games test program at a mysterious Virtual Reality games company called Wanderers of the Maze. Because of the need to remotely control complex machines, the Far Warriors were all accomplished games-players, and Maze is focusing its testing efforts on them. At the same time, Jon hooks up with a student named Chrye Roffe, who is doing a thesis on Far Warriors and wants to make him part of her research.
As Jon explores Maze's gamezones--one of them so authentic he thinks it might be a genuine alternate reality--Chrye finds herself more and more attracted to this damaged, paranoid man. When he tells her that someone at Maze is murdering the Far Warrior testers, she believes him, and together, they set out to discover who the killer is. But as a Far Warrior himself, Jon too is marked for death. He must find a way not just to solve the mystery, but to save his own life.
At first glance, there isn't much new in Reckless Sleep. The devastated near-future world with its drugs and diseases and cults, the VR zones so well-designed they seem real, the edgy hero, the near-magical technology: we've seen it all before. A contrived, cyber-noir prologue and initial chapters in which too much seems to be happening too fast don't help matters. But this appearance of derivativeness is (like much else in the book) illusion. Very quickly the narrative settles down, and Reckless Sleep becomes a gripping and unconventional examination of reality, Virtual and otherwise, and of a wounded psyche working its way back to wholeness.
The narrative moves back and forth between the grimness of the real world and the seductively beautiful Virtual world of Cathar, the gamezone Jon is helping to test. Levy has a gift for mood and atmosphere: these two settings, and the contrast between them, are powerfully evoked. Dirangesept, which shares qualities of both worlds--the beauty of Cathar, the violence of the outside world--is also very vivid, surprisingly so considering that it never appears in the book's real-time narrative, but only through the memory of the various characters. It needs to be vivid, though, for it occupies an iconic place in the minds of nearly everyone in the book, and in the wider consciousness of the world as well, as a symbol of Earth's failed hope.
Dirangesept is also the book's real mystery. The other questions--the purpose of the murders, the identity of the murderer, the possible reality of Cathar--are in a sense red herrings, for each of them turns out to be a different aspect of the larger question of Dirangesept's true nature and significance. The answers are revealed in bits and pieces over the course of the narrative; Levy keeps us guessing all the way, adroitly blurring the lines between Virtual and actual, putting the reality of nearly everything in the book in question at some point. It's a lot of elements to juggle, but Levy interweaves them all with a skill not always found even in the work of more established writers. If a few questions remain at the end, that's okay: one of Reckless Sleep's strengths is the way it plays with readers' expectations.
On the cover of Reckless Sleep, Levy is called "a sensational new voice in world SF". It's rare that this kind of hype can be taken literally, but in this case it's entirely appropriate.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A human face to a black future 31 Oct 2002
By Carol Denehy - Published on
What makes this novel different from the many post-apocalyptic versions of a cyber-based reality and failed extra-terrestrial colonization is the believability of the characters. You care about what Jon Sciler feels in Cathar, and how the past has blackened his future. You care even about the characters in the VR world, because he does. The mystery is gripping and the detail vivid. So many novels in this genre have characters so damaged that they are unappealing, but Sciler's portrayal make you want to know what will happen to him, even when it is frightening.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars POOR 12 April 2006
By Marco Herreras - Published on
This book reminds me of the 80s, when hundreds of mediocre SF books were printed every year for the mass and youngster markets. The idea seems nice at first: mid 21st century, Earth agonizing, a veteran from a defeated and blamed colonizing mission which was Earth's last hope, working for a Virtual Reality top game company... but that's all, just a nice idea poorly executed.

Characters are dull (except one which is almost cartoonish) and interactions between them are overly artificial. They all speak and behave the same way. And above all, they are not believable: they just follow the author's plot from scene to scene, acting and talking in absurd ways just because there has to happen what the author has decided. They act like lemmings; the reader ends wondering too many times why character X does or says this instead of that, which would be far more reasonable. That never happens in any of Philip k. Dick's works. And by the way, don't be fooled by the critics or reviews' taglines: This book has nothing to do with P. K. Dick's works, nor should EVER be compared Roger Levy with him.

There are not plenty of "unanswered questions", but rather missing work: The book's universe lacks coherence and detail. Characters handle top technology (detailed to an acceptable degree) to get into VR, but then write on pieces of paper and speak on the phone! (and no details are given whether "paper" or "phone" are remote descendents of today's). Levy's year 2055 just isn't believable, no details are given about the reviews' so vaunted "political" issues that have made his 2055 Earth the agonizing world he mentions (he hardly describes it)... I much recommend instead "Cosmos Incorporated", by Maurice G. Dantec.

I kept reading, hoping it would get better. Nope. The end is very disappointing too.

I would definitely not recommend this book. Go instead for Philip K. Dick's "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" and (of course) "Do androids dream of electric sheep [aka Blade Runner]", also Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash", and Maurice G. Dantec's "Babylon babies" and "Cosmos Incorporated", for example.
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