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Success Stories

by Michael J. Cavallaro


ISBN 097745332 4
Arcanum, 2006
469pp, paperback
Retail price $15.95

Open Book

Review by Chris Williams

A hard science fiction novel of inordinate complexity. In fact, this book is so complex and so mired in its own vocabulary, that most of the time I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

On the back it says: Thirty-five years after the devastating Encryption Wars, the rise of…a widespread brain-to-computer interface system called…sublimation from the city of Cybernetica has left a criminal subculture brewing – those who fall outside its technological parameters of control. Now, following the first successful cyber attack in its history, a group of insurgents called the drifters are aiming to destroy and recreate the very civilization it supports. I give that quote in some detail because, frankly, I couldn’t describe the novel myself because it lost me not too far from the beginning and never really got me back again.

I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a member of my local children’s library. In fact, in those days, apart from non-fiction about animals, that was my exclusive reading. I have kept an interest in the genre through the following decades, although it is no longer an exclusive literary interest. I still read science fiction today and include authors such as Greg Bear and Iain M. Banks on my wish-list. So I am not approaching this as a novice. It lost me though.

This book features four main characters and a host of others. Hardly any of the characters are exactly what they seem to be and, as the novel progresses, who the characters are becomes more and more confusing. The language is very cyber, e.g. In the solo camps, electronic combat ranges were stimming Brawl Zone operations in virtually reconstituted phase planes using nightscope. Status logs confirmed, armaments and vehicle intercom checks on the X-band were proliferated prior to commencing. This is not an isolated example; a considerable amount of the book is like this. And when it’s not we’ll get purple prose such as: In the violet glare of the ethereal panorama, gray [sic] cumulus surged like an armada across the curtain of night. Luckily there’s not too much of this latter, probably because there’s not enough room for it amongst the former.

There are conspiracies, there are various groupings, and there are battles, large-scale but totally confusing battles. There is speed and pace. There is, generally, a lot of colour and a lot going on in this book. The problem for me was I could never fully work out what.

The peculiar thing is that throughout the book I always felt that the author knew exactly where he was and what he was doing. He just didn’t manage to convey that to me.