Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at a time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
In our last chapter we saw Jake go home to find his wife left him and his friends are in jail or dead while he was asleep. Not an easy return home for our hero. I think this shows off the problem with being frozen for four years, nevermind the fifteen he was intended. This is the kind of stuff that turns people BACK to a life of crime. Nice to see the justice system gets worse in the future.
I couldn’t tell you at this point whether or not that was intentional by Shatner and Goulart at this point but that’s the reading I’m getting from it. We’ve learned little about Jake in the past five chapters as the emphasis has been on building out the future world and so far I’m not a fan of this world. Narratively it’s fine and has the makings for good storytelling, but it sure isn’t one I’d want to live in regardless of the cool gadgets (some of which we have without the more science fictiony names–“smart home” aside). However, I’m hoping we eventually start focusing more on our hero and less on where he hangs his hat. Let’s see where chapter six brings us.
Actually, as I read chapter six I just naturally flowed into chapter seven, but managed to stop before chapter eight despite the scene essentially continuing. It’s another example of the odd pacing issue of this book. So, let’s read TWO chapters.
Jake is on the vidphone (considering this wasn’t the first sci-fi product to call them that why don’t we call the apps that can do this “vidphones”?) with Wiz, the guy Mom set him up with last chapter who can find information Jake needs on his family, and maybe even why he was let out early. He does get his wife’s number but only gets a recorded message that she knows he just got out but it’s not a good time for him to reconnect with his son. Then the number gets disconnected when he tries to call back. Just another example of how dumb this punishment is if the goal is to curb crime.
From there we get a scene where a depressed Jake considers breaking out his old Tek gear. Jake may not be working for the runners but he apparently was a client. This is a rare example of some good sci-fi worldbuilding as the writer and ghostwriter go over just how Tek, a computer-induced virtual reality drug, actually works. We also see Jake struggling with it. Again, only a few hours have passed for him, meaning some remaining addiction exists. It’s not something they flushed out of his brain because they’re not all that smart in the future. The heart of what they were trying to convey is there but the dialog is a bit silly when you read it in your head and weakens the impact of the scene. Then we go into the fantasy where Kate and Dan change their minds and come home, but there are a few inconsistencies. Luggage appears out of nowhere, as did Dan who now sports darker hair and Jake can’t seem to figure that out. Perhaps four years with his brain frozen did have some effect on him or maybe being a detective these errors pull Jake’s attention away from the fantasy. Still better than going to Rekall but you wonder if this is something the bad guys have fixed in four years. Reality versus unreality could be a theme worth exploring but if memory serves the book doesn’t do that. I actually read it before the TV adaptation came out.
The chapter ends with someone named Gomez, probably the only person Jake knows not lying low, in jail, or in the grave thus far still on his side. I stopped myself at this point, believing this will end the part where Jake gets use to his new situation and we start moving on to what’s going on at the moment, why he was let out.
The dialog is a bit off at times but the intent is there. It’s not a great set of chapters, the pacing is still wonky, but at least the worldbuilding actually matters to the situation instead of just showing off. Perhaps next time we, and Jake, will finally start getting some answers.