Space Ramblings

Prodigal by Marc D. Giller book review

On the one hand cyberpunk is dead, on the other hand with Prodigal, Marc D. Giller takes a decent shot at trying to keep it alive anyway. He doesn’t succeed, but he does demonstrate a fluid writing style and an ability to sketch outer space scenes that is downright cinematic. Prodigal continues where Hammerjack left off, but with a side trip to Mars, where an old unknown threat is heading back to earth. There’s nothing all that bold, bright and new in Prodigal’s cyberpunk world of corporation intrigue, shiny surfaces, AI’s, hackers and biotech, but often Giller manages to make it seem new anyway.

Like a video game with great graphics, half the pleasure of Prodigal is in lingering over the textures and graphics, whether it’s the urban and moral decay of Osaka or the detailed procedures for putting on a spacesuit. The focus on Mars helps defuse the usual claustrophobic cyberpunk setting, and side trips to places like Chernobyl helps introduce some freshness to the old familiar cyberpunk haunts. Lea Prism returns once again, this time as the stereotypical warrior girl heroine with a secret. Over near Mars, Nathan Straka, a hacker running a Mars recovery mission to the abandoned colony, is a more interesting character. And Avalon gets a final wrap-up too.

Marc D. Giller’s writing outpaces his plotting, and his scene shifting tricks help conceal that, until the end at least. Prodigal ends in a way that’s ripe for a sequel, but hopefully Giller will try to move beyond the old cyberpunk tricks to try something newer. Some of Prodigal’s best scenes take place in space, and next time maybe Giller will make the leap all the way to a novel set there.

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