Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review: 'Systems' by W. T. Quick


3 / 5 Stars

William Thomas Quick is the author of nearly 30 novels, many of them ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ – style romances written under the pseudonym Margaret Allan.

A second-generation cyberpunk author, Quick wrote a number of well-received novels during the late 80s and early 90s, with ‘Dreams of Flesh and Sand’ (1988) and ‘Dreams of Gods and Men’ (1989) his best-known efforts in the genre.
 
‘Systems’ (Signet, 251 pp, 1989, cover illustration uncredited) takes place in the San Francisco area early in the 2030s.  Josh Tower, formerly a covert operative in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), now earns a living as a ‘datahunter’ for corporate clients. As he and his pregnant wife are returning from dining out, their air taxi suffers a malfunction and crashes to the ground. Tower endures a painful recovery from his injuries to find himself a widower.
 
Bereft and depressed, Tower tries to make sense of the disaster by looking into the online databases for clues to the nature of the accident; he soon discovers that the accident may have been deliberate. His inquiries lead him to a small, nondescript corporation called Condor Securities. His efforts to delve further into the nature of Condor Securities elicit a strong reaction from what seems to be a rogue element of the DIA. In short order Tower finds himself on the run from a squadron of killers, anxious to eliminate the one man who may know too much about a plot to undermine the world economy.
 
‘Systems’ is a near-future  thriller with some cyberpunk frosting, more like the novels of Dean Ing (whom Quick salutes in his Acknowledgement) than a novel akin to that authored by Gibson, Sterling, Shirley, or Jeter.
 
This is not a bad thing; with the exception of a few too many passages wherein various characters muse a little too long about the Meaning of It All, the narrative flows along at a good pace with plenty of gunplay and some rather gruesome scenes of violence. Tower is by no means a superman, and his escape from his pursuers never easy or taken for granted, and the clandestine organization devoted to snuffing him out sports a collection of suitably malevolent assassins. 

The technology of the 2030s is reasonably well extrapolated based on the state of computing technology at the time the book was written, and the plot machinations that Quick introduces later in the novel are unsurprising but never contrived.
 
Readers interested in a more action-oriented, early cyberpunk novel will want to give ‘Systems’ a look.

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