Multireal, David Louis Edelman

Pyr, 2008, 522 pages, US$15.00 tpb, ISBN 978-1-59102-647-1

As a follow-up to David Louis Edelman’s debut novel Infoquake, Multireal improves upon a few problems from the first book, runs aground on the usual shoals of second-volumes-in-a-trilogy and promises much for the conclusion of the series. Fans of Edelman’s previous novel won’t be disappointed, and some skeptics will be reassured about the fate of the “Jump 225 Trilogy”.

Readers will remember that Infoquake ended with a mind-bending technology demo of “Multireal”, a technology that allowed control over future possibilities, allowing an individual to predict and select the best outcomes of the many choices confronted on a moment-to-moment basis. Multireal focuses upon this technology while following the adventures of the driven entrepreneur Natch and the rest of the group he brings together to manage the release of this new technology product. Things aren’t looking good for him as the novel begins: beyond the usual business rivals and rabid media aggressiveness, Natch also has to contend with officials who can’t bear to see a technology as promising as Multireal stay in private hands, and hidden enemies who can’t wait to see the much-damned Natch fail at something for once.

Perhaps the best things about Multireal, from a genre SF fan’s perspective, is how it manages to deal effectively with the possibilities of Multireal. The novel offers a series of showcases for the technology, from a flechette gunfight that ends in a perfect draw, to a stroll through London foot traffic, to a wild soccer demonstration to life-saving heroics in desperate circumstances. What seemed so far-fetched in the first volume seems natural, even inevitable this time around, which is a testament to Edelman’s growing confidence as a writer.

It’s not the only aspect of Multireal that feels improved upon its predecessor. Many of the less-believable aspects of Edelman’s imagined future are either refined or left unmentioned, lending greater credibility to a setting that almost looked like a parody at first glance. Many of the monolithic organizations that so bothered picky readers in the first volume are now fractured and inefficient in this follow-up: The government forces are notably more nuanced thanks to infighting and power plays, adding some much-needed complexity to the “Jump 225” world.

From a more conventional standpoint, Edelman may leave a lot of things hanging in mid-air by the end of this second volume, but he doesn’t hesitate to throw them there. Natch’s journey through this book goes from bad to worse as he suffers from black code implanted deep in his brain, loses almost every single source of support and struggles with his own beliefs. By the time A-type Natch is “reeling with ethical vertigo” on page 400, readers can be excused if they want to stand up and cheer; clearly, things are evolving. At the same time, Jara fans will be intrigued by her dramatic trajectory through the novel, as she emerges as a protagonist in her own right, trying to save the fiefdom from all enemies while trying to put away her infatuation for her former boss.

All in all, it amounts to a strong second novel that shows how Edelman is growing as a writer. As high-tech SF novels go, this is one of the year’s good choices. It’s fun to read, interesting to think about and suggests that the third volume of the trilogy will be even better.

[July 2007: Sharp-eyed readers will notice that a certain “Christian Suave” is hidden among the many, many Multireal blurbers. It’s my first printed blurb, and my name is misspelled. It’s a triumph both for both my ego and my integrity!]

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