Thursday, August 09, 2012
The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees (Demi-Monde Saga)
That could be something straight out of nightmares, or it would be a demented sort of Hell if it was real. Readers get to experience the best, or worst, of both worlds with the dystopian novel, Demi-Monde: Winter.
The good news is that world, the Demi-Monde, is a virtual reality simulation used by the U.S. military to train its soldiers in war settings that are chaotic, unstable, and unpredictable. The super computer running the simulation maintains a population of millions of fully-developed personalities, divided by extremes in ideology, with 19 uber psychopaths fighting to rule, not including the lesser psychopaths, madmen, and fanatics working under them. The virtual reality world is so sophisticated and such an immersive experience that the trainees who die in the Demi-monde die in the real world. Plus, the Deminondians can sniff out the "real" humans and hunger for their blood (literally). It is one messed-up game, but only the soldiers-in-training have to worry about that.
And, of course, here is the bad news: The President’s daughter, Norma, gets trapped in the Demi-Monde by one of those alpha psychopaths, Reinhard Heydrich (one of the darkest figures from Nazi history and one of the masterminds behind the Holocaust), which makes pulling the plug a very bad idea. Heydrich is not only interested in controlling the Demi-Monde but wants to bring himself into the real world. The military gives Ella Thomas, a strapped-for-money jazz singer who otherwise fits their psychological profiles and is quite resourceful, the unenviable task of going into the Demi-Monde to rescue Norma.
Demi-Monde is a heady genre-blending mix of history, religion, politics, military fiction, fantasy, science fiction, adventure, and steampunk with the hefty volume to contain it. This ambitious mix is matched with careful world-building, solid writing, strong dialogue, multiple perspectives, and several sub-plots with a huge cast of characters. Going beyond name-dropping, figures from history come back to twisted life in this virtual hell with their warped personalities intact (a history book or at least Wikipedia would help). Events come to head with multiple factions conspiring and plotting, and the chaotic setting makes things complicated and the outcome unpredictable.
Wordplay goes wild, but, in a world crammed with constant turmoil and extremes, in ideology, religion, and politics, it oddly fits this crazy hodge-podge world. This virtual world is full of clever (and sometimes humorously groan-worthy) puns and corruptions, odd spellings, misspellings that twist meanings around, and it comes with a handy glossary. Here is a sampling: HimPerialism (for male supremacists), HerEticalism (for ultra feminists), Awful Tower for the Eiffel Tower, and ABBA is the acronym for the God figure of this world.
Look for Demi-Monde: Winter on the VBPL Catalog. The sequel is The Shadow Wars. Try The Matrix directed by Wachowski brothers for more virtual reality and real world madness. Michael Olson’s Strange Flesh has real life and virtual reality intersect and bleed into each other. William Gibson’s Neuromancer is an award-winning cyberspace thriller.