Review: World of Fire

World of Fire (James Lovegrove; Solaris) is a a promising start to a new SF adventure series, in which a roving troubleshooter tackles problems on the frontier planets of an interstellar civilization.

Dev Harmer’s original body died in the Frontier War against the artificial intelligences of Polis+. Interstellar Security Solutions saved his mind and memories; now they download him into host bodies to run missions anywhere there are problems that have local law enforcement stumped. He dreams of the day the costs of his resurrection are paid off and he can retire into a reconstructed copy of his real body; until then, he’s here to take names and kick ass.

When this sort of thing is done poorly it’s just Mickey Spillane with rayguns. When it’s done well the SFnal setting is crucial to the story, and there’s a real puzzle (or a series of them) driving the plot.

In this case it’s done well. The expected quotas of action, fight scenes, hairbreadth escapes, and tough-guy banter are present. The prose and characterization are competent. The worldbuilding and puzzle elements are better than average. An ambitious pathbreaking work of SF it is not, but good value for your entertainment money it certainly is – good enough that I now want to investigate Lovegrove’s backlist.

I’ll look forward to the sequels.

18 thoughts on “Review: World of Fire

  1. Aren’t we supposed to ask why they don’t copy his mind and memories billions of times over so he can troubleshoot everywhere at once?

  2. Ethics, most likely. Cloning someone like that without their permission is probably a serious violation.

  3. … or the law, like in “Altered Carbon” by ?Richard K. Morgan – you can have only one copy of yourself running around.

  4. > Aren’t we supposed to ask why they don’t copy his mind and memories billions of times over so he can troubleshoot everywhere at once?

    The first thing I thought of was this guy running into copies of himself. There don’t need to be millions of him around for that to happen, and the ethical thing might not be an issue if he agreed to the bodies in question. This may not have happened in the first book, but at some point, I would assume the author would reach for that. Hopefully nothing as rote as being an outright villain, though I guess a talented enough writer could make that work.

  5. > Aren’t we supposed to ask why they don’t copy his mind and memories billions of times over so he can troubleshoot everywhere at once?

    Maybe they are, and the he in this story isn’t aware of it.

    Anyway, sounds worth a read.

  6. Speaking of copies, apparently you can’t get a copy of this book until August 26th. I’m wondering what kind of deal our reviewer has with the publisher.

  7. >Speaking of copies, apparently you can’t get a copy of this book until August 26th. I’m wondering what kind of deal our reviewer has with the publisher.

    netgalley.com

  8. > now they download him into host bodies to run missions…
            and
    > Aren’t we supposed to ask why they don’t copy his mind and memories billions of times over so he can troubleshoot everywhere at once?

    There are aspects depending on whether the downloaded mind is moved or copied, but multiple copies can get really weird…

    Which one is him? What happens to a host body/mind when a mission is over? Does the saved mind get memories from multiple copies that were running simultaneously? If a copy is destroyed when the mission is done, it might turn out that that copy doesn’t wish to be destroyed and sees the solution as killing the original version.

  9. Would it be fair to summarize this story as being a variant on Keith Laumer’s Retief? Do you get any sense of there being any inclination on Lovegrove’s part to venture into the Time Enough For Love age and gender quandaries in future stories?

    Not that that would necessarily be a “bad thing” in and of itself – steal from the best and all that. As long as the plot and scenery and character motivation aren’t themselves overly derivative, a certain amount of shared traits between generally equivalent characters confronting similarly challenging circumstances is only to be expected.

  10. >Would it be fair to summarize this story as being a variant on Keith Laumer’s Retief?

    No, the atmosphere is different – more like crime/suspense fiction, less satirical comedy.

    >Do you get any sense of there being any inclination on Lovegrove’s part to venture into the Time Enough For Love age and gender quandaries in future stories?

    I think that’s quite unlikely. Lovegrove seems to have some interest in the identity issues implied by the technology, but not in any way that is age or gender related. If I had to guess where he is going with it, I’d say epistemic doubt about the truth and completeness of memory would be a larger issue.

  11. With apologies to the Beatles:

    As we live a life of geeks,
    everyone of us has all we need:
    book reviews, commentary,
    and advocacy of liberty.

    We all live in the cozy A&D,
    cozy A&D,
    cozy A&D.

  12. … I’d say epistemic doubt about the truth and completeness of memory would be a larger issue.

    Hmmm …

    I wonder if Dev Harmer’s post-corporeal masters use his between mission times as a sort of digital dojo to add to his pre-existing skill set/knowledge base? Even just referencing such as an aside during subsequent stories might have added entertainment value. Precisely how does a now-dead man gain investigative insight into technology (or entire societies, come to that) that either didn’t exist or were outside his realm of corporeal experience?

    Also (and as a very shallow example), just how reliable would his memories of his previous investigation of the killing of someone necessarily need to be during his subsequent assignment to assassinate the killer? Presumably he would need much of the first job’s knowledge to perform the second assignment successfully; his opinion of his employer/owner’s ethical and moral standards would take a confidence hit at the very least, I would think.

    Onto the Amazon Wish List this one goes and I’m looking forward to finding out how this all plays out. Thanks Eric.

    BTW; you’ve made a good start on developing a side-line gig as a pro reviewer for Amazon here. Might be something to look into: ESR’s SF Guide For The Dyspeptic Reader or some such. :)

  13. >you’ve made a good start on developing a side-line gig as a pro reviewer for Amazon here.

    Amazon has pro reviewers? What? Do tell…

  14. Have you considered publishing your SF reviews in a more indexed way, searchable by title, author, SFness, or overall quality?

  15. >Have you considered publishing your SF reviews in a more indexed way, searchable by title, author, SFness, or overall quality?

    Not seriously. I might make a page of links, I suppose.

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