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Dark Heavens
Roger Levy
Gollancz paperback £6.99

review by Tony Lee

This sequel to Reckless Sleep gets off to a cracking start with a disturbing scene of clinical, yet nonetheless horrific, loss of life. It's shocking because the apparent slaughter of so many innocents is not a crime; the British government condones it. London detective Cy Auger investigates the disturbingly antisocial phenomenon of 'Consensual Mass Suicides', to determine whether the charismatic leaders of religious cults are leading their gullible followers to a promised heaven or simply condemning thousands to an early death.
   After the vivid opening, the story jumps forward to find Auger demoted and struggling to overcome a personal tragedy, which is clouding his judgement and challenging his moral values. However, a loss of faith, and subsequent fall from grace, are merely the background to Auger's real troubles, as everyone he seems to care about turns up dead or disappears, suddenly...
   Basically, this is a detective story, but one set in a dystopian future where volcanic activity and extreme pollution has made crime the very least of anybody's problems. There's a mass-murder conspiracy, a scientific mystery surrounding the ongoing colonisation of an alien planet, corrupt government ministers vying for supreme power, and a return to the magical adventure realm of Cathar, the fantasy VR arena that's a game "like Russian roulette is a game."
   Roger Levy's compelling and evocative writing brings the bleak landscape of a severely blighted city and radically different British culture to warped life and, as before, the plot is crammed with enough twists and turns so that, just when you think there cannot possibly be any more surprises in store, another startling revelation is found on the next page.
   Dark Heavens feels something like early Jeff Noon crossed with Peter F. Hamilton (before he got lost in overlong space opera). Perhaps the only British author spiking his speculative future with knowing fantasy themes in a similar fashion, and with comparable scope, is Neal Asher. I hope that Levy will follow Asher's lead and deliver such high quality material as this a bit more often.
First published in a shorter version by Starburst magazine.
Dark Heavens

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