FLASHBACK By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

This is a scary book.

The not too distance future is far too familiar, and realistic for comfort.

Set in 2036, where America has broken up, the Global Caliphate has taken over much of Europe after bombing Israel, Nuevo Mexico (run by the drug cartels) now rules over much of the former southern United States, and Japan is the major country pulling all the strings as it goes back to dark-ages feudal law.

Nick Bottom is a former cop and Flashback addict, a drug that allows you to revisit memories, who is asked to reopen a murder from six years ago. When he is offered enough money to buy himself Flashback for the rest of his life, so that he can relive the memories of his now dead wife, he can’t refuse. His new boss sets Nick a minder, a Japanese assassin named Sato who follows Nick and tries to keep him on the straight and narrow while he investigates. Meanwhile in Los Angeles Nick’s abandoned son Val is heading with his gang to commit a murder, and the cartels are ready to make a push to take over the rest of California.

This world where crowds no longer gather due to bombings, where flights are hideously expensive due to security, where suicide bombers fill up every orifice with explosives (this book was read in the same week security was tightening in the US and UK due to bombs hidden within bodies), where gangs rules half the world, where financial crises have destroyed the superpowers and much of democracy, is a frighteningly plausible future.

Simmons is an excellent writer, he does his usual thing of using place names and street names to really paint a picture of the setting, and the world he has created is utterly realistic. The characters that Simmons creates are good, there’s a nice level of development, they have a good deal of history, backstory and realism.

Everything Simmons does is polished and professional. He writes interesting stories, and captures the imagination of the readers.

But I can’t help thinking that he will never capture my imagination again the same way he did with the Hyperion books. If you haven’t read Simmons then any of his books is a must read, he is an impeccable writer, and this would be a good one to start off with.

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