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Whole Wide World
Voyager hardcover £16.99
review by Christopher Geary
This one reads like an attempt by worthy British SF author, McAuley, to break into both the detective novel and spy thriller stakes, using a triple whammy of cyberpunk motifs, grisly murder details, and conspiracy theory chills. And yet, offbeat futuristic underworld settings in London and Cuba don't quite add up to a successful remix of genre formulas.
John is a police inspector with the Metro computer unit. He becomes part of the team working on a news headline serial killer case, and sees this as an opportunity to revive his flagging career. There are a lot of suspects, and the investigation proves difficult because it hinges on both sexual violence and hi-tech intrigue. The first female victim was an art student, drawn into webcast exhibitionism as part of her work, and links with her wealthy uncle, responsible for a computerised surveillance system, may be the cause of her death. Can the cops (or the author, for that matter) tie all these plot strands together?
Although this story is reminiscent of films and books such as Looker, Rising Sun, and Disclosure, McAuley is not Michael Crichton. Somehow these peculiarly Americanised themes don't sit comfortably in Britain, despite many clever twists and an effort to blend elements of media censorship and social repression (matters that certainly are of genuine concern this side of the Atlantic) into the plot. Whole Wide World (read it as 'www' and I think you will grasp the basic premise), is a relative failure - compared to the author's other books - not because of the goofy incongruities between its central subjects and background locations, but because it tries too hard to force these generally incompatible ideas together. And, unfortunately, it does so without much in the way of good humour.
tZ - Paul McAuley is interviewed by Duncan Lawie, in The ZONE #6
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