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Android: Free Fall Paperback – August 30, 2011
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Can Keith write military? Check. Science fiction? Yes. But what's this...a *detective novel*?
It seemed a bit of a departure from much of his previous work, and I was intrigued. This book hooked me right away and, all reviewer cliches aside, I found it difficult to put down. Free Fall opens with an almost tongue-in-cheek nod to classic noir, and then pokes some self-deprecating fun at itself by acknowledging that very fact. From there, it's the perfect Keith balance: he lets the plot drive the pace, but helps it along by alternating between exposition and action with a deft touch. Despite the many necessary technical and scientific explanations of low-g and zero-g considerations, his narrative voice never becomes pedantic; and the action sequences are characteristically vivid and flow naturally. There's the requisite love interest which adds character depth without detracting from the main story, Keith's trademark attention to detail (which left me mentally forehead-smacking...of *course* his writing style is *perfectly* suited to this genre!), and just enough in-jokes to make SF fans giggle but not groan. (Seriously, the number of possible humorous cross-references for androids must have been painfully tempting, but the author sneaks in only a few, preferring a wink to a cream pie.)
Free Fall is a fun ride. The mystery kept me guessing almost to the very end, the setting was richly described, and the author skillfully presented almost all characters in a sympathetic light. A metaphysical subtext is evident throughout, but does not come across as heavy-handed; rather, it arises accordingly from the very nature of the conflict. I'm not familiar with the ANDROID universe and cannot speak to this book's accuracy, but it reads very well in isolation. That said, I hope to see a return of Detective Harrison and a continuation of William Keith-penned mysteries.
An easy recommendation for Netrunner fans craving more of the universe, or to anyone who just wants a fun cyberpunk noir murder mystery.