Week ending March 22, 2013
Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Revolution and Evolution. Underland. 2013. 448p. ed. by Victoria Blake. ISBN 9781937163082. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 97819337163099. SF
Focusing on postmodern technology and a society where all too often things go terribly awry, editor Blake (Jumping the Cracks) has entertainingly anthologized 19 short stories covering the full range of cyberpunk fiction. The collection contains works by many of the genre’s highly respected authors, ranging from William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Rudy Rucker to newcomers such as Cory Doctorow. A gem is Paul Tremblay’s “The Blog at the End of the World,” consisting of blog entries by one Becca Gilman, who notices the sudden increase of deaths of young people owing to aneurysms. The blog posts chronicle the events, with comments from sometimes skeptical readers until the blog postings suddenly and frighteningly end.
Verdict Fans of cyberpunk will surely enjoy this anthology, but devotees of horror and general sf may find it a happy indulgence as well. The postapocalyptic world of many of the stories, though more or less zombie-free, should resonate with enthusiasts of shows like The Walking Dead. The material is such that it can be promoted to teenagers who have already read everything in your horror section.—Vicki Gregory, Sch. of Information, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa
De Giovanni, Maurizio. I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi. Europa, dist. by Penguin Group (USA). (World Noir). 2013. 216p. tr. from Italian by Anne Milano Appel. ISBN 9781609450946. pap. $16. M
Commissario Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi sees dead people. Not only in his job as a homicide detective on the Naples police force but in visions of their final moments. “Not all of them, and not for long: only those who died violently and only for a period of time that revealed extreme emotion, the sudden energy of their final thoughts.” This unusual gift is both a blessing and curse, enabling the green-eyed 31-year-old Ricciardi to solve crimes successfully but also condemning him to a life of isolation and loneliness, except for the young woman he loves from afar but cannot bring himself to meet. His latest case involves the brutal slaying of tenor Arnaldo Vezzi in his dressing room at the San Carlo Theater. Because the famous opera singer had ties to Mussolini (this is 1931 fascist Italy), Ricciardi’s sycophantic boss pressures him to solve the case quickly. But the meticulous commissario will not be rushed, especially when the tenor’s ghost sings a final aria to him, a clue he must interpret.
Verdict A well-deserved 2012 finalist for the Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award and elegantly translated by Appel, this melancholy debut entry in a quartet introduces a most unforgettable sleuth who might remind some readers of Charles Todd’s ghost-haunted Insp. Ian Rutledge. De Giovanni’s backstage depictions will appeal to Donna Leon fans, and the historical backdrop of Mussolini’s Italy offers a fresh take on a tumultuous period that will attract readers who enjoy Philip Kerr’s atmospheric Bernie Gunther novels.—Wilda Williams, Library Journal
Djanikian, Ariel. The Office of Mercy. Viking. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780670025862. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101606100. F
Life in America-Five, one of many dome-covered settlements that cross what was once America, is controlled, clean, and safe. Citizens of the settlement are taught that they have moved beyond the harshness of nature, the uncertainties of biology, that they are the pinnacle of the human species. Natasha Wiley believes the doctrine of her community without question and has the privilege of working in the settlement’s Office of Mercy. Her task is to end the suffering of all humans left outside the dome. When Natasha is allowed out on a rare mission, her encounters with one of the remaining tribes of humans lead her to question all she has been taught, including the very core of her beliefs—her identity.
Verdict Remarkably, Djanikian’s debut novel leads us to find sympathy, even understanding, with Natasha’s culture. Just as we are aware that the settlement’s “Office of Mercy” is essentially a euphemism for genocide, we feel Natasha’s conflicts among what she has been taught, those she loves, and her changing understanding of right and wrong. Billed as a YA crossover dystopian novel, this book makes for an interesting read that will appeal to fans of Julianna Baggott’s “Pure” trilogy as well as the dystopian fiction of Margaret Atwood and Justin Cronin. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/13.]—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA