By Greg Bear
First Published: 1997
Jacket Art by Jim Burns
Review © 2011 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, AI
Slant is another terrific science fiction novel about the not too far off future from Greg Bear. This is a sequel, of sorts, to one of my favorite novels from Bear, Queen of Angels. What makes this sequel shine above most is that it offers fresh new ideas and very different plotlines than the first novel. In fact, Slant stands very well on its own without requiring the reader to start with Queen of Angels.
Slant takes place in the same fascinating future Greg Bear created in Queen of Angels except that the location has changed from Southern California to Seattle and a future Idaho which has become an isolationist separate state from the rest of the US. As before, the future has been transformed by nano technology driven psychological therapy that had wiped out most mental issues for those that aren’t against therapy. Some of the characters are back from the first novel but in most cases, they have a smaller role here. The one exception is Mary Choy, the genetically modified police woman who is back as a main character. However, she has changed since we last met her and is working on making more changes.
As in Queen of Angels, Bear begins Slant with a multitude of separate plots that don’t seem connected at first. One of the main plots involves a carefully planned and orchestrated attempt to break in to a high security storage facility designed to contain the suspended animation bodies of the super wealthy. This storyline has some great action, weapons, and surprises. Another main storyline, the death of a super wealthy businessman under strange and provocative circumstances, attracts the attention of Mary Choy. A third plot thread involves a “self-aware” computer that makes contact with another “self-aware” computer that seems childlike in some ways but is also potentially more advanced and is definitely not any of the known “self-aware” computers legally registered in the world. Finally, one more narrative involves a futuristic female porno star who has passed her prime and is becoming more desperate to make ends meet. She soon finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and finds that she may be the murderer’s next target.
With so many plots and characters, the beginning starts slowly but soon, some of the plotlines connect and the pace really picks up. Bear looks closely at the sweeping effects nano therapy has on society and some of the backlash that such sweeping changes can engender. He also greatly extends his extrapolations of the future of artificial intelligence. However, what’s best about this novel is the way all the elements come together in a suspenseful and action packed finale.
With a combination of thought provoking ideas and terrific action scenes, Slant is a thriller of a science fiction novel that you don’t want to miss.