John Christopher, Author . Severn $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5960-0

Veteran Christopher, best known for his recent young adult fiction (the Tripods and Sword of the Spirits trilogies), is at the top of his form in a near-future SF novel that calls to mind his adult classic, No Blade of Grass (1956). Thanks to quiet British restraint, the glimpses of increasingly violent wrongness are more disturbing than entire planets being zapped in a routine space opera. Michael Frodsham is part of an influential Anglo-German family involved in producing virtual reality programs for mass entertainment, now also developing VR into a tool for psychological therapy. As a minor bureaucrat in the British hospital system, however, Michael uneasily begins to suspect that the technology could have more sinister uses as the oppressive European union aims to devour Britain whole. And so he must resist. Christopher avoids standard thriller formula with sharp attention to detail and his refusal to oversimplify the characters. Even people who behave the worst have their reasons—some of which they try to explain, some of which readers can figure out for themselves. The villains are convincing in their moral slovenliness. Likewise, Michael reveals himself as a man of honor without being unbelievably priggish or noble; he's just someone who can't take the easy way out by ignoring his sympathies and principles. He turns out to be unexpectedly admirable, and so does this subtle novel. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/12/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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