Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

Release date: April 22, 2014
Published by: Thomas Dunne Books
Source: Digital ARC / NetGalley
Author links: Facebook | Goodreads

All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer...

As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered "mission critical." She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty,  the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.

When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor's violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply "Retired," nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.

The Forever Watch was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the two main characters and their complicated relationship. The mystery was interesting enough. I liked the setting and loved the ending. Everything in between was kind of meh.

The story takes place on the Noah, a vast ship carrying humans to a new location now that Earth is no longer habitable. It's described in a way that doesn't feel like the entire story takes place on an outerspace vessel. Everyone aboard lives in different neighborhoods. They go shopping, attend parties,
 and dine at restaurants. If they plan on taking a stroll they can feel the heat of summer or the chill of winter and they can view the sunset in the distant horizon (a sky simulation created by City Planning). It's a habitat designed to mimic Earth.

Occupants on the Noah receive neural Implants that allow them to access data and communications with just a thought. It also allows them to share memories, have conversations without speaking, and some even have the ability to write commands or ideas into others' minds. There are also various psychic talents, such as psychokinesis.

The protagonist, Hana, finds herself helping a friend investigate a murder mystery that seems to be a part of a larger cover-up. When getting to know her character we learn about a traumatic event in her past and the difficulties she's having after giving birth to a baby she will never see. She also experiences difficult emotions during her new relationship with Leon, which
 was complicated for various reasons. They have different social and financial statuses so her friends look down on him. The murder investigation also adds additional stress because they find themselves in a situation more dangerous and complex than they imagined. 

Technical aspects of the story with the Nth Web and Hana's search for data was a little difficult for me to follow. I skimmed the majority of the conversations that had any mention of Hana's psi-tablet, Analytical Nodes, swarms of programs, coding, data manipulation, etc. I understood that this was vital to the story, I just couldn't get into it. Also, I was a little disappointed that this was the method they used to try and solve the mystery. That meant there was little hands-on effort involved and I personally found that to be a bit boring.

Despite my issues I would still recommend The Forever Watch to any sci-fi fan. It had a great concept and the mystery came with a surprising reveal. Once I reached the last 3/4 of the story I couldn't put it down. Seriously. If anyone expected me to do anything helpful or productive, they were sorely disappointed. I wasn't getting up until every secret was revealed and I learned every characters' fate. I will definitely be watching for more of Ramirez's work in the future.


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