1/04/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Mad Norwegian Press. 191 page enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-93523409-8.
check out website: www.madnorwegian.com
In the middle of this century, the Aswan dams in Egypt break and Cairo is one of its casualties. In the ruins, people of all ages scrap around for a living. Young Christian El-Aref gets injured and helped in his recovery by fellow youth Mohammad, whom he discovers isn’t quite what he seems purely by accident but they have an enduring friendship looking after each other, fencing what they can scavenge until they find the body of a UN peaceforcer whose equipment is a rare find but they have to go to a better fence who isn’t fully trusted to get the full worth. When El-Aref is coerced into transcribing material from English into Arabic, he takes the opportunity to flee, leaving his friend behind.
About fifty years later, he is back with his daughter, looking for Mohammad. The story elements rotate between the two time periods. I should point out that despite his name, El-Aref is neither Christian or Muslim but Sunni which we get reminded of occasionally.
It isn’t until mid-way through the book that we learn that El-Aref is also known as Mouse and Mohammed is a fallen angel called Morningstar. There is also an immense gap between how El-Aref becomes a computer hacker as well. It’s almost as though author Lyda Morehouse decided half-way that she’ll turn the story cyberpunk to spice things up. According to the biographical notes at the back of the book, the AngelLink cyberpunk stories were there first, but as I haven’t seen them, it means the first half of the book was stuck on them vice versa. Shame really, cos the opening is actually very good and then half-way, it gets lost and assumes the reader knows what is going on.
El-Aref without an internal cyberLink is out to infiltrate a Egyptian computer system and Mohammed getting back with her angel friends. The reasons for this are still eluding me and felt that Morehouse was making assumptions that any reader would know what was going on. When you have stories that can be read out of sequence, it does make sense to clue in new readers.
One of the problems I have with cyberpunk stories is that I tend to find many of its writers don’t know much about computers and take all their feed from its instigator, a self-confessed computer illiterate, William Gibson. People who are computer savvy do tend to have a different mind-set but they are also not instant computer programmers and can do things on the sly. It takes a bit more knowledge to hack a system and know what part of the software to infiltrate.
I liked the opening of the book and wished Morehouse had worked that out to the end because she caught the atmosphere really well for El-Aref to seek his old friend, Mohammed. Having it hijacked by a different story half-way puts things at odds with itself so treat with caution.
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