SFF

Repo Virtual

Tor.com. Apr. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781250218728. $26.99. SF
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Julius Dax, in-the-meat thief and online repo man, is tasked to steal an unknown object from the residence of tech billionaire Zero Lee. It turns out to be virtually magical, at once enthralling and disturbing. White’s (Static Ruin) economy of language pulls readers through heists, shoot-outs, and car chases—the smart-city of Neo Songdo’s skies haunted nightly by VOIDWAR, a game with millions of players. Aside from its augmented reality (only low-wage residents see the underlying grime and ruin), the world drawn here feels depressingly like now, its youths’ craving for speed and authenticity rendered moot by predatory capitalism’s eternal present moment. Akin to Philip K. Dick’s iconic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep??,this title’s philosophical base addresses the status of nonbiological presences and what that says about humanity.
VERDICT White, known mostly for his “VoidWitch Saga,” here twists the volume up, both dramatizing and warning against unchecked AI. What lingers is an important observation: no culture can retain its power and sanity when there are no noncynical eyes to see it. Cyberpunk and general sf readers will enjoy and even learn from this one.

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