BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a by-gone era, technology ran amuck and the earth was burned. Mankind survived on the fringes of earth-orbit, ruled by a group of corporate entities. But when an old threat breathes again, Councillor Rome Franco must question all he has known; and the space colonies will tremble in the balance.
PROS: Dialogue, description, strong prose, well realized characters,
CONS: Random POV shifts that will make you shake your head, hideous book cover (give me back the old one, with an update to the layout),
BOTTOM LINE: Thrilling, cut with conspiracy and rippling with commentary on the dangers of biological tampering. Hinz made a world you want to explore, even as you fear what you may discover.
The Paratwa were bio-engineered, lab grown humans, born in pairs with a single linked-consciousness. With a tendency toward terrible violence, the highest of their breed rose up, and as humanity fell, they left the planet a blasted wasteland. But before all was lost, they were brought down.
Or so humanity thought.
Hundreds of years later, humanity huddled away in 20 mile long cylindrical colonies orbiting earth, mankind finds themselves again under the threat of the Paratwa. And floundering E-Tech must somehow avert a disaster few recognize and none understand.
When an obscure computer program points the anti-tech organization toward an unlikely pair — hidden away in stasis — the threat has an answer. The question, however is: What kind of answer has Councillor Franco uncovered?
The cylindrical orbitals have their dark sides, no matter what the corporatized authorities want you to believe. There is political intrigue, murder, mayhem, and a mother-son duo that have to come to grips with old issues brought to the fore. Despite a lot of moving parts, Hinz manages the cast of characters well, and keeps the story moving.
And he does not flinch when it comes to his story. Some of the characters are twisted, self-centered and terrible, but others hold onto hope and human morality, no matter how tenuous.
Published in 1987, this appears to be Hinz’s debut novel. It shows in some disorienting POV head-hopping, but the story pulled me in enough to not matter. Councilor Rome Franco provides a moral center that is touching with his care for his wife, even as he grapples with the morality of his own actions and what he may have brought into the world. The villains grow on you, though at times they come across as too cliché. Gillian, as the hero, is beautifully realized, as he struggles with dark inner-secrets. And if you’re a fan of Tyrion from the Song of Ice and Fire books, you will have to wonder if G.R.R.M. wasn’t inspired by Nick — a brilliant, devious little man, full of more questions than answers.
This book is a classic, but hides its age as if it just stepped from a hybernation pod.
Just ignore the covers.
Instead, think of skyscrapers, hanging from the other side of an orbiting cylinder habitat, like massive stalactites; centersky awash in rain clouds, flaring with lightning; and the crack of the Cohe wand as the energy lash coils around your neck, like Death’s final embrace.
The twist of the novel is inevitable when it comes, likely predictable, but still a delight.
*I hear that the sequels fall flat. Hard to imagine, and Liege-Killer is amazing enough I’ll ignore the advice and try them anyway. I also hear of a graphic novel adaptation of this book that came out in 2013.
Four leering Paratwa grins for a piece of Sci-fi that will (continue to) last through the years.