Detective novels and science fiction blending into one? What more could you ask for?
‘Silhouette’ is set in a near-future San Francisco that had to rebuild following an earthquake. It is ruled by former cop Saul Rabin who uses his influence to create the BASS security firm and run what is basically a dictatorship.
This is a world with microchips embedded in heads and glasses that can be used to communicate in private. There’s also a guerrilla media outfit hidden in San Francisco that is monitoring all information zipping around the world. It’s led by a former BASS agent or ‘Peacer’, who became disenfranchised with the whole operation.
The book begins with lead character Michael Ares being told that his daughter and his best friend who was babysitting her have been killed in a car bomb attack. Unable to sit still and deal with his grief, Michael uses his position at BASS to try and find who did it.
In between the science fiction technology and detective work, Michael, and his wife Lynn, attempt to come to terms with the death of their daughter. I found that it was these passages that set it apart from your standard detective novel. The couple obviously find it difficult to express their emotions regarding the situation, especially Lynn who lashes out at Michael for his career which she believes was the cause of the attack. Plus the events also set out the stall pretty quickly as it’s quite brave to kill off a lead character’s loved one in the first chapter of the first novel in a series.
The novel is filled with plenty of twists and turns, some more obvious than others but on the whole it moves at a rapid pace. All credit to Swavely, there’s no time to stop and smell the roses. The reader is plunged straight into the action, with the news of the car bomb reaching Michael on the second page.
There are also some nice asides to the reader about the city which it’s set in, including an amusing short paragraph on George Lucas and the Skywalker Ranch. The only character I couldn’t get on board with was Harris the media guerrilla as he was a little over the top for no reason and comes off a little like Max Headroom.
This is Swavely’s first fiction novel and while it is influenced by genre classics such as ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Minority Report’, he has created something very different from both of them. It’s a refreshing read that would suit both science fiction and detective fans. The science fiction element isn’t too unbelievable while the detective aspect isn’t clichéd in any way. A sequel to this novel is already in progress and I’ll definitely be checking it out.
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, November 2012, 259 page hardback, $24.99 (US) $28.95 (CAN), £15.29, ISBN: 978-0-250-00149-8)
Check it out here: www.stmartins.com