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- Author: Eric C. Leuthardt
- Publisher: Tor/Forge
- Genre: Scifi/AugPunk
- Format: Hardcover, 365 pages
Book Review: RedDevil 4
As prophetic and poignant as Neuromancer
By Chuck Francisco
February 23, 2014
As a child, my first instance of reading William Gibson's Neuromancer brought with it feelings of imaginative wonder- the technology portrayed lived just beyond reality, but at a locale so close that there could be optimism that we'd one day have a "Matrix" of our own. Almost thirty years later, Gibson's notions of cyberspace bear a striking resemblance to the World Wide Web (in fact some scholars have argued that Neuromancer was so influential at just the right time that the web was shaped in his fiction's image). Why do I bring all of this up in the body of a review for Eric C. Leuthardt's RedDevil 4? The simple truth is that while reading RedDevil 4, I was absolutely blindsided by the realization that this may be a modern day Neuromancer in its scope of prophetic future projection. Allow me to elaborate further.
In the near flung future, all humans are fitted with implants which serve to allow access to the internet, function as communication devices, dish up streaming entertainment, and provide for a complete augmented reality for every citizen. These implants stimulate the input signals to the brain, so there isn't some sort of physical prosthetic, as with something like Google Glass, and the prosthetics are ubiquitous throughout society. Users can piggy back on the full recorded sensory playback experiences of other people ala the Ralph Fiennes millennial movie Strange Days, or loose themselves in immersive virtual reality constructs which take over the senses, akin to a less involved Matrix.
It is on this "so close as to be our technologically plausible future" stage that a series of grisly murders are perpetrated by high profile assailants. The police turn to renowned neurosurgeon (and inventor of the implants which changed humanity) Dr. Hagan Maerici. He's on the cusp of another world changing discovery, this time in the field of artificial intelligence, when he's brought on to the case by aging, world weary detective Edwin Krantz (who is old enough to remember and opine the loss of cell phones), and his ex-Navy Seal intelligence analyst partner, Tara Dezner. Together the three search for the motivation behind these grisly murders within the brain implants of the suspects, and discover something far more horrific than they could have imagined.
The world dominated by the firing speed of neurons, and potentially lived even further inside our own minds, is craft with impeccable deftness of pen by Leuthardt, who is himself a Neurosurgeon and biomedical researcher (in fact RedDevil 4 is inspired by real neuroprosthetic research). RedDevil 4 is written to the strength of the author's knowledge, crafting a plausible near future, where the dynamics of our world have been dramatically altered by the latest and greatest technological innovated (not wholly unlike the drastic cultural shift instigated by the internet, and then again by smart phones). Into this fascinating setting is dropped a compelling murder mystery that will leave readers guessing straight up to the grand revelation.
From a narrative standpoint, Leuthardt chooses to brandish numerous narrators, rotating through them like so many impeccably detailed suits. This makes the initial plunge into reading the novel slightly uneasy- as chapters are brief so as to switch characters out in real time. Indeed, the entirety of RedDevil 4 takes place over only two days, and Leuthardt deftly showcases the action simultaneously across the consciousness of each relevant character. Even more impressive is that he's able to develop sincere arcs for a number of these personalities in such a short span. They progress and evolve in satisfying ways, and readers will be left awaiting the next release in this reality.
Like Gibson before him, Leuthardt defines a genre with RedDevil 4, breathing true life into the Aug-Punk setting, and becoming its definitive work.
RedDevil 4 by Eric C. Leuthardt is be available on now from Tor Publishing as a Tor Hardcover for $25.99 (Purchase it here), and science fiction fans would be absolutely remiss to skip it. Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.