Wednesday, 27 September 2000

J.D. Robb: Rapture in Death (1996)

Edition: New English Library, 1998
Review number: 630

How will the NYPD operate in fifty years' time? That is an interesting if unanswerable question. Robb's series featuring Eve Dallas takes most of the obvious answers - greater reliance on computers, for example - and creates traditional murder mysteries from them. In this case, a series of motiveless apparent suicides makes Dallas suspicious, particularly when it is discovered that the victims all have a mark, like a burn, in the same part of their brain. The investigation centres around the use of subliminal mood enhancement in virtual reality (a topic which has itself interested several science fiction writers), and produces a novel which is enjoyable and undemanding.

This series straddles the two genres of crime and science fiction, but there are problems with both aspects of this novel. The detection is by no means police procedural despite appearances, and is rather more intuitive (like a traditional crime novel), and the solution to the mystery is rather unconvincing.

From a science fiction point of view, the problem with Rapture in Death is that it is set as far as fifty years into the future. Much of the computer, entertainment and other technology described in the novel doesn't seem as far away as that to me; maybe ten or fifteen years. And the computer technology, in particular, is not very imaginative. I suspect that well before 2050 computers will be used far more proactively in policing than as the databanks (without voice or thought interaction despite the use of them in Robb's virtual reality machines) depicted here. (Mother of Storms, by John Barnes, is a much more convincing portrayal of the future use of computers.)

Nevertheless, an enjoyable read, best seen as a novel about the near future rather than one set fifty years from now.

No comments: