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Reckless Sleep

by Roger Levy

(Victor Gollancz, £6.99, 426 pages, paperback; first published 2000; this edition 14 June 2001; ISBN 1-85798-890-6.)

Roger Levy's first novel bears more than a few resemblances to those of Philip K cover scanDick: strange events on distant colony planets; the end of the world rumbling inexorably on regardless of hi-tech wonders; strange alternate worlds overwhelming our own, etc.

Towards the end of the 21st century the world looks distinctly like that portrayed in Blade Runner: dark, grimy and wet. The planet is dying, racked by earthquakes and pollution - even hope itself seems to have died following the failure of an interstellar expedition to colonise (first peacefully and then by force) the Eden world of Dirangesept. The so-called Far Warriors have returned home, defeated and in disgrace.

But it's not all bad! Virtual Reality games have become remarkably sophisticated, so much so that one company has been recruiting former Far Warriors to test their latest one - but people have been dying after playing the game, and Jon Sciler decides to find out why when an old friend and comrade drowns, despite having a phobia of water.

I found Reckless Sleep a frustrating read. Roger Levy writes well: situations flow off the page smoothly, and characters are portrayed believably and naturally. His world has a surreal Dickian quality to it, sf touched with a hint of Magic Realism, such that you can never be quite sure what might happen over the page. Unfortunately, as the story develops it turns out that what might happen over the page is far more interesting than what actually does - Reckless Sleep is rather dull and confused (like most of its characters), and unsure what kind of book it wants to be. Not much happens, and the entire story seems infected with the same ennui that grips the ruined future world. I had to make myself stick with it till the ends, and by the time the mildly inventive conclusion was sprung I just wanted out.

Hopefully Levy's second novel will be better because, as I said, he can write really rather well - it's just a shame that he wrote this story.

Review by Stuart Carter.

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