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Mercury's Son

Write on: Thu, 31 Aug 2017 by  in Charles' Reviews Be the first to comment! Read 1785

4.5/5

MERCURY'S SON by Luke Hindmarsh is a Blade Runner-esque dystopian science fiction tale about conspiracies, technology, religious fanatics, and a series of gruesome murders. In other words, it is a book that is exactly up my alley. How much did I enjoy it? I enjoyed so much I've read it twice.

The premise is the world has been destroyed by a massive war which has left all of humanity in arcologies where food is rationed, scientists kept under lock and key, plus the government controlled by a pantheist eco-friendly religion called the Temple of the Wounded Mother. The Temple of the Wounded Mother isn't nearly as eco-friendly as it appears, though, as it is a human-hating cult that considers mankind a virus in the same way Agent Smith did. It also makes repairs to the environment nearly impossible as it's Luddite views are incompatible with actually repairing the world's environment.

The protagonist is Valko, a cyborg soldier of the Pre-War Earth who lost his memory after a devastating cyber attack that left him comatose (where after he was cryogenically frozen) for much of the world's transformation. Valko is left with questions about whether his supposed past is true as well as how the world had become such a horrid parody of itself. He's only got one skill, though, and that's killing. Well, killing and reading the memories of individuals through their cybernetic implants. As a result, he finds himself working for the very theocratic government he despises.

While Blade Runner is an obvious inspiration, I'm actually reminded more of the movie version of Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston. There's a lot of focus on the government as well as the moral compromises they've been willing to make in order to prevent another war from occurring. There's also a little bit of 1984, too, as we get several moments where elements of the world we've been introduced to are shown to be completely false. In this age of alternative facts and competing news cycles (whatever your political affiliation), this book manages to make a applicable point about questioning everything. The fact virtually every side of the story believes completely in their cause makes our protagonist, who believes in nothing but survival, all the more interesting. It's a very morally ambiguous environment and makes use of gritty noir motifs.

The Temple of the Wounded Mother is a truly excellent antagonist and pretty much embodies all of the worst elements of human society while remaining completely believable. They're a Luddite organization that despises humanity and makes it suffer for the Original Sin of existing as well as the evils of humanity's ancestors--all the while doing nothing really productive to help rebuild. The wealthy avoid the worst of its practices while the lower members of the Temple are expended like cannon fodder under the belief they're doing something good. I really came to hate these guys by the end of the book and the fact they're such a deeply rooted phenomenon makes them a hard creature to uproot. They're a religion that I think theistic readers will hate more than the scientist materialist ones.

Valko is the perfect sort of noir antagonist for this world. He's not a particularly good person and much of his storyline is attempting to keep his head down and do his job so he doesn't get in trouble. Valko is more interested in making the most comfortable life he can for himself given the fact he's a superhuman powerhouse but social outcast. Ultimately, the discoveries of just how much he's been lied to and manipulated make him a sympathetic protagonist but not so sympathetic to be easily plugged into the "good guy" role.

The technology of the setting is well integrated with Valko's ability to read memories being both useful as well as something that can backfire on him. His abilities are all realistically explored even as we also get to see how he's affected by living in a society that disdains technology and yet needs it to survive. He's a force for the establishment but out of step with it as they view the past as a time of shame (but need soldiers like him to keep the peace). Seeing how he interacts with those humans who do embrace technology is instructive, as he doesn't automatically warm to them either.

Mercury's Son is an excellent novel and one of the better pieces of science fiction I've read this year. I'm not quite sure if this qualifies as cyberpunk but it's certainly in the penumbra around the genre and there were several moments which reminded me of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Neuromancer--which is high praise indeed from a dedicated fan of the genre like myself. Luke Hindmarsh has an excellent grasp of world-building and creates a psychedelic future with its own slang, common food items, and weird values. We come to know everyone from the government, the church, to the men on the street as well as how they react.

Last modified on Monday, 27 November 2017 14:16
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

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