A compelling police procedural set the day-after-tomorrow: a chilling murder mystery and a gripping conspiracy thriller
London, the second decade of the twenty-first century, two years after the InfoWar. The cameras are everywhere: smart, tireless, and linked together by the Autonomous Distributed Expert System, a vast, cold, unsympathetic system that's still testing its limits. There's no escape from its gaze; everyone's a suspect. But there's a flaw in the system, a way of outwitting its gaze, and someone has been murdered because of it.
The InfoWar: high explosive and microwave bombs were set off by terrorists in the City; viruses shut down cooling fans inside computers and started thousands of fires; bank accounts ran back to zero; phone lines were randomly cross-connected; TV channels transmitted porn or insane rants by computer-generated talking heads; every traffic light in London jammed on red; the Internet went down.
Our narrator has kept his rank but not his status since he was seconded to the Information Technology section of the Metropolitan Police. He was badly wounded in the InfoWar and his superiors would rather he took early retirement. But he is called to the scene when Sophie Booth is found dead on a chair in front of three webcams, blood pooling beneath her. And in the ruins of the smashed computers and disabled cameras he sees a way to redeem himself and get back to active duty. So begins a very dangerous game for Minimum (our narrator’s nickname), especially since there’s no hiding from the CCTVs that are everywhere and in the control of people who would rather he did not solve the crime.
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Paul McAuley continues to show his SF versatility in Whole Wide World, a noir thriller opening in a near-future London where government obsession with pornography, surveillance and regulating the Internet still hasn't made crime go away. Quite the contrary.
When a girl is slowly, horribly murdered as a sick piece of performance art relayed by WebCams to the world, the undersized detective-inspector narrator becomes obsessed with this case. Though disgraced and stuck in the backwater of the Met's former Information Technology Unit (eclipsed by much sexier IT squads), he doggedly keeps following leads--including red herrings planted by hostile colleagues.
The killing connects to international porn barons, to the twilight world of thuggish "security" firms and contract killers, and to SF hardware secrets of the omnipresent street cameras that allow automatic 24/7 surveillance of absolutely anyone. Who is the "Avenger" who taunts the narrator with e-mail routed through anonymous data havens in prosperous, unregulated Cuba? Meanwhile, atrocities of the recent InfoWar--when data terrorists wreaked havoc on the City--still cast a long, unfair shadow over his career.
When this crime's deeper motives and implications become clear, there's further frustration. Certain villains are beyond British law, or above it. Even the UK government invokes all its powers of censorship to keep the lid on. It's entirely against orders that our DI hero flies to Cuba for a finale of high-tech shenanigans and violent action.
Despite the bleak background of Whole Wide World, there's a thoroughly satisfying outcome. A good, tough and thoughtful SF thriller. --David LangfordReview:
‘A quality novel that further confirms McAuley’s place in the first rank of British SF authors’ Time Out
‘A chilling thriller from one of Britain’s best SF writers, now turning to crime fiction with awesome ease’ Guardian
‘Here’s a topically relevant crime thriller full of great narrative twists’ Starburst
‘McAuley conveys a sense of loss and of ambivalent despair which underpins and gives depth to his dark vision of a future that is not so much near, as already with us’ Interzone
‘Whole Wide World is a major novel and McAuley is one of our best’ Locus
‘Looks set to inject a welcome dose of sophistication in the sf genre and attract readers who normally wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole’
‘Better hard science fiction writing than any British author since Clarke’
‘Usually you get ideas or voice. With McAuley you get both – in spades. Without question the most exciting of Britain’s new-edge writers’
Michael Marshall Smith
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Book Description Voyager, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P11000651331X