Vector (USA) | 01 July 2000 | Colin Bird

This novel follows Ayuamarca, Book One in the author’s ‘The City’ sequence [reviewed by John Newsinger in Vector 207]. I haven’t read the preceding volume but assume from the series’ subtitle that the nameless city in which Hell’s Horizon is set forms the connecting strand.The City is a geographically indeterminate sprawl dominated by the nefarious forces of The Cardinal, a powerful figure whose influence seems to penetrate every aspect of city life. Al Jeery is a guard at Party Central, charged with protecting his crimelord boss from assassination. When Jeery’s girlfriend is found murdered in one of The Cardinal’s properties he is assigned the task of investigating the crime by the big man himself. Soon Jeery finds himself mired in the city’s Incan heritage, not to mention attracting the attention of a legendary assassin, the mysterious Paucar Wami. Hell’s Horizon is a standard crime thriller dressed up, rather unconvincingly, as sf. The Cardinal runs his city with strong-arm tactics, there is no mention of high-tech gadgetry. The story could be set a hundred years ago except for perplexing contemporary references to Leonardo DiCaprio and James Ellroy (a clear influence on the author’s style). The only sf/fantasy story elements are some mystical Incans who remain on the periphery for most of the novel. There’s a sense that the author intended the city itself to be a character in the story, but a lack of adequate descriptive prose leaves the reader bereft of any insight into the elusive metropolis. The novel reads like a dark cyber-punk thriller with all the genre content bleached away. Nevertheless, Hell’s Horizon is an entertaining enough read with plenty of incident and a surplus of plot twists. Just about every major character becomes a suspect at some stage of the convoluted plot and it all builds to a suitably overwrought, and enjoyable climax. It feels like the writer has thrown all his favourite thriller cliches into the mix and stirred to see what happens next. The result is consumable but not very stimulating or challenging. A few glimpses of originality and the deliberate ambiguity of the book’s locale hints that this writer may venture down more interesting literary channels in the future. reviewed by Colin Bird, in Vector, issue 212, July/August 2000. THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE ORIGINAL RELEASE OF HELL’S HORIZON.

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