Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Something Coming Through" by Paul J. McAuley

Here's a synopsis:

"The aliens are here. And they want to help. [...] The Jackaroo have given humanity 15 worlds and the means to reach them. They're a chance to start over, but they're also littered with ruins and artifacts left by the Jackaroo's previous clients.

Miracles that could reverse the damage caused by war, climate change, and rising sea levels. Nightmares that could for ever alter humanity - or even destroy it.

Chloe Millar works in London, mapping changes caused by imported scraps of alien technology. When she stumbles across a pair of orphaned kids possessed by an ancient ghost, she must decide whether to help them or to hand them over to the authorities. Authorities who believe that their visions point towards a new kind of danger.

And on one of the Jackaroo's gift-worlds, the murder of a man who has just arrived from Earth leads policeman Vic Gayle to a war between rival gangs over possession of a remote excavation site.

Something is coming through. Something linked to the visions of Chloe's orphans, and Vic Gayle's murder investigation. Something that will challenge the limits of the Jackaroo's benevolence ..."
Remember Oasis? A Mancunian scruff band: semi-criminal, unemployed and so-angry. They produce two desperately-great albums (Definitely Maybe, (What's the Story) Morning Glory) and get rich and famous. Then it all falls apart -  they're going through the motions.

The same thing happens to writers, Greg Bear being a case in point. I loved McAuley's Fairyland for its sharp evocation of the counterculture in a dying civilization. The author was clearly loving it, even if the ending did rather squib out. Many books later, McAuley is an established SF writer, churning them out. He ticks all the competence boxes: he can create characters, settings and plot. But (yawn) his heart isn't really in it. And if he doesn't really care, this rubs off on the reader.

Let it be said I really wanted to like "Something Coming Through". I put up with the endless police-procedural chasing around and jumping through hoops (to little apparent purpose) in the hope there would be a big reveal. But no, all that will be reserved for future volumes of what promises to be an interminable saga. Sorry mate, life is way too short.

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