SFX (USA) | 01 May 2009 | Mark Morris
IT’S HARD NOT TO HAVE PRECONCEIVED IDEAS about the books one is asked to review. Sometimes the imminent arrival of that month’s offering fills you with eager anticipation, whereas on other occasions you mutter a half-hearted “okay” when asked to run the rule over a particular title. I must admit, then, that Hell’s Horizon fell firmly into the latter category. The prospect of a science fiction hovel about Incan sun gods by a writer I’d never heard of did not fill me with the joys of spring. And making matters even worse was the fact that the book was part two of what appeared to be an ongoing series. It was with a heavy heart, therefore, that I turned to the first page and began reading. Five minutes later I was both surprised and overjoyed to discover that the story had sunk its hooks deep in to me and was steadfastly refusing to let go. For those of you who pick up Hell’s Horizon expecting a science fiction novel, you’d better be warned that there is precious little science fiction in it. It is set in a vaguely dystopian near-future, but it’s more psycho-thriller than cyberpunk, more James Ellroy than William Gibson. There’s also a whiff of The Usual Suspects (the enigmatic, almost legendary, serial killer, Paucar Wami, whose sinister presence haunts this novel, bears more than a passing resemblance to that film’s near mythical Keyser Soze). Also, like that film, the plot is labyrinthine and never lets up, delivering shock upon shock, twist upon twist, throughout its 400-plus pages. The writing style is remarkably assured for a writer who is, apparently, only in his mid-20s; the characters well-drawn and distinctive. Oh, and it makes no difference that this is Book Two of what will presumably be a series of novels about the City — Hell’s Horizon stands up perfectly well as a novel in its own right. **** (out of 5)
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