By James Hider
Cronix starts off with the old and rather underplayed question of what happens when we’re able to upload our minds into virtual reality, and everyone wanders off into imaginary fairylands. As I’ve personally spent many days in a gaming induced haze punctuated by sporadic breaks for work or food, I’ve always felt that this is one of the major issues science fiction should explore, right up there with first contact, galactic wars, and doomsday scenarios. Given the increasingly advanced state of VR, and the fact that a bunch of people die every year from over gaming, this is probably the likeliest sci-fi scenario of all.
Mr. James Hider describes a world where post humans all live in virtual paradise up above, and the earth is a sort of prison/historical theme park, where curious celestials can download into custom built bodies for a biological holiday. Luis Oriente, ‘the missing link’, possibly the first post human, still roams the earth, and caught by planetary officials, starts to recount the tale of how all of this came to pass. In the middle of this, all hell breaks loose in the form of a Cronix rebellion. Cronix are imperfectly downloaded humans—physically hale, but in various states of mindlessness.
The telling of Oriente’s story is easily the best part of the novel. The writing is slick, the characters are vibrant, and there’s a prefect depiction of a group of scientists doing cutting edge research with zero concern for ethics or consequences. The backstory of Glenn, the hapless, somewhat scoundrelly victim of the first upload, is worth a novella on its own. I would have been perfectly happy spending the entirety of the novel watching these characters putter around.
The last third of the novel, unfortunately, is where I felt a bit let down. The story covered a lot of ground and our man Oriente seemed like a passenger, rushed through various scenarios, and then eventually dumped into a hopeless situation, followed by an even grimmer epilogue. For all his puissance, he goes out limp, without a climax, or catharsis or even an almighty bang.
I give it three and a half stars because I loved most of the book: the premise, the characters, and the sheer quality of the writing.
Written on 27th February 2015 by Saad Hossain.