Review of Reality 36 – a Richards and Klein Investigation by Guy Haley

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This is Guy Haley’s debut novel, though not the first one I’ve encountered – see my review of Crash here. Somehow, this offering slipped through the net…

Richards – a Level 5 AI with a PI fetish – and his partner, Otto Klein, a decommissioned German military cyborg, are on the trail of a murderer, but the killer has hidden inside a fragmenting artificial reality. Richards and Klein must stop him before he becomes a god – of the sake of all realities.

reality36So, we have a whodunit set in the near future where technology has leap-frogged forward due to the artificial intelligences now proliferating. With Stephen Hawking’s recent warning ringing in our ears, I was particularly fascinated to see to the extent that Haley agrees… I really enjoyed the Timeline at the back of the book – it meant that swathes of exposition could be cut from this densely written book, which needed to move forward at a fair lick, given it’s a whodunit.

Have to say, it did take some time to get going. There were several early scenes that I felt could have been omitted without compromising the narrative arc – and given that this is the first slice in Richards and Kleins’ adventures, some of the information we were given then could easily have been interleaved within subsequent books. But it wasn’t a deal-breaker because I did keep reading, mostly because the world is detailed and intriguing. One of the reasons I could have struggled at the start, was that I didn’t fully bond with Richards until a very long way along the story. This is always something of a problem with posthuman protagonists – by definition, Richards is smarter than humankind and knows it, so frequently comes across as annoyingly smug. But I did like the fact that Haley recognises this is an issue, and instead of trying to humanise his protagonist, he provides a coterie of other Fives who are even more obnoxious… However, there are other characters who do give us the human touch – Veronique and Chloe, and the wonderful partnership between Sir Jagadith and Tarquinius also ticked all my boxes. I loved their eccentricity and the sheer fantastic extravagance of what this closed-off corner of a former gaming reality managed to produce.

Much science fiction tips into science fantasy, but Haley’s world seems all too plausible to me, and once the story really got going, the pace picked up and it barrelled ahead. Until the ending – which is a cliff-hanger… Given that the sequel wasn’t out when Reality 36 was first published, this was something of a risk. How many readers would be truly irked at having got to the final page – to discover they still didn’t have a conclusive ending? If I’d been one of the early readers, I probably would have had a bit of a tantrum – however these days it isn’t a problem. As Omega Point is available, all I have to do is track down a copy – which I fully intend to do…
8/10

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2 responses »

  1. Sounds absorbing and your review is eloquent, but I confess that “to discover they still didn’t have a conclusive ending?” is a deal-breaker for me. I almost never read two books by the same author in a row, because I like to vary my reading. So thanks for the warning!

    • Yes, and your response, I think, is a fair one. I was also a tad surprised – particularly as the books didn’t come out together. But as I’m also a Haley fan and I know I’d probably be tracking down the sequel anyway, I wasn’t as fed up as I often am when I get to the end, only to discover it really isn’t…

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