Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Shadow Wars by Rod Rees

Title: The Shadow Wars
Author: Rod Rees

Genre: Fiction (Futuristic / Computer Simulation / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Nazis / Historical Anachronisms / War Games / Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (2/19/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The further adventures of jazz singer Ella and her coterie of Resistance fighters in the cyber world of the Demi-Monde.

Do I like the cover?: Nope -- definitely hate the way they're designing them!

I'm reminded of...: Philip Pullman, Astro Teller

First line: I present to the Grand Council of The Most Secret Order of Grigori this report on the progress made in achieving the Final Solution.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- these are bricks! -- if you like cyber-y alterna-historical thrillers.

Why did I get this book?: I'd read the first one!

Review: First, see my review of the first book in this series -- I semi-exhaustively (it felt) recapped the premise of this world.

This is the second book in Rees' four-book series exploring the virtual world of the Demi-Monde, a computer model filled with 30 million historical figures who are self-learning, free-thinking, and self-governing. Initially designed to train US military in aggressive warfare, the real reasons for the programs design comes clearer in this book, and there's an insidious religio-political plot to make Dan Brown jealous.

As with the first book, the world of Demi-Monde is the star and Rees' is unstinting in his time spent there, with the people, the places, the philosophies of the Demi-Monde (for good and for bad).  However, if pressed, I'd say there was a smidgen less emphasis on the world as much of this novel's plot revolved around the real world / Demi-Monde divide (or lack thereof).

The story still has a fairly tight focus on characters, so despite the million side players who show up, I felt I understood what was going on.  I had some of the same problems with this one as with the first one:  when I'm not frustrated by the caricatures and stereotypical exaggerations, I'm caught up in the drama -- its like Les Mis meets any WWII resistance film with a dash of government conspiracy. Rees makes these disparate styles work in his world and it is a fun, escapist mish-mosh.

Still, Rees' exaggerated world and focus on Super Nazi Heydrich's Final Solution as a plot means lots of racism and sexism. But he's also set up one of his three female leads as the messiah, so, pretty amazing.  I'm really torn!

I found Rees' writing very readable - quite cinematic, very action packed - but I really could go without the PoMo caps. (Given that the computer characters have independent thought - enough to form religions, philosophies, and scientific communities - one would imagine that linguistically, they'd drop the random caps esp since they love corrupting words, ie jouissance as JuiceSense, etc.)  As with some of his characterizations, he's uneven.

Definitely not a standalone novel - start with the first book to get your feet solidly on the ground. I'm stunned there are to be two more books - clocking at more 400 pages each, rees has a huge canvas to paint his cyber-steampunk epic. I'm daunted at the idea of two more but I'll be getting the third book!

As I said in my review of the first book, fans of Tron or The Matrix will like this series as well as anyone who loves a dark dystopia. I think Rees is trying for the kind of punk fantasy saga of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy -- an examination of religion, philosophy, sex, identity, oppression -- so those who enjoy that kind of adventurous fiction should give this series a go!


  1. Ok, so I just read your first review, and thought this wasn't for me, but now I am starting to think differently. The substantial worldbuilding is really my thing, and I feel that this book has that in abundance. I am going to take a chance on this one, and the others, because of your recommendation. You have really made a case for this series!

    1. It's super intriguing -- I found myself describing it to my gamer cousins as 'someone taking the world-building of Harry Potter and set it in a computer-based dystopia' -- lots of strategy, lots of ambiance and place, lots of drama. Debatable whether it is thin or not -- depends on how it hits you as a reader. I'm glad you're going to give this a try -- it was a surprising series and very imaginative!

  2. I'm wondering how I missed this and book one of the series. It has a lot of elements I like. Never too late to add them to my list.

  3. I'm guessing since you mention sex that this book isn't really appropriate for my son (he loves dark dystopia and genres like it).

    Still, I'll have to check this one out and see if it's something he'll enjoy reading when he's a bit older.

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra.

  4. I love the idea of the world building -- that's definitely something I could get lost in and it's those kinds of books that make me wonder what world I'm in when I stop reading them. :)