Learn About Future Terror And Space Elevators

Illustration for article titled Learn About Future Terror And Space Elevators

In the 22nd century, the internet has been fractured into geopolitical zones, Europe and America are enemies and terrorists have just blown up the space elevator. Welcome to the world of The Mirrored Heavens, the debut novel by David J. Williams that Stephen Baxter is describing as "Tom Clancy interfacing Bruce Sterling." With the recent release of the book, Williams has been appearing online to talk about videogame-inspired writing, futurewar and the one necessary ingredient of science fiction.

Talking to the website Rescued By Nerds, Williams explained how worthwhile it was to write the book and create a whole new future for his characters to spy in:

It was exhilarating and terrifying and I thought I'd never pull it off. There was endless toggling back and forth among plot, characters, and the world itself. This went on for years. And years. And years... With videogames, you're a participant. I wanted to try to recreate that experience in narrative. Part of this involved my resolution to make the book deliver combat scenes crazier than any you've ever seen. And part of it was more subtle: it became a play around what we know vs. what we don't. Specifically, the characters in the different plot-threads have different information. Sometimes they lack information. Sometimes their information conflicts. Meaning the reader isn't given easy answers-and they have to get involved if they want to keep up.


(The reader may not be given any easy answers, but they do have access to a lot of information about Williams' world: His own site is full of essays explaining the geopolitics and technological background behind the book.)

Despite the terrorism, politics and science underpinning his novel, however, Williams clearly is a geek at heart:

RBN: One of the most sexy tech items in Mirrored Heavens is the power armor both Marlowe and the Operative wear throughout. Where did that come from?

DW: From the realization that science fiction without powered armor is like beef stew without the beef.

Mmmmm. Power armor.

David J. Williams interview [Rescued by Nerds]


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The Mirrored Heavens was a faced-paced fun read. Maybe a little too faced-paced for an old fart like me who hardly ever plays video games. I thought Williams' description of the digital world his hacker/soldier characters (called "razors") interface with was a little too 80s—too W. Gibson and Tron. Not that there's anything wrong with those works, it's just that a cyberspace made of glowy geometrical shapes seems a bit dated to me.

Despite that it's a good first novel. His take on the politics and espionage feels right. And the powered armor really is kick-ass. I recommend it and will check out further novels set in this world if Williams feels so inclined. As he set up that site with all the backstory etc. he probably will.

And oh yeah, Alistair Reynolds blew up a beanstalk in Chasm City to great effect. Now that's a great novel.