Though it contains little that's original, Mathews's debut futuristic thriller, which borrows its title from one of Johann Strauss's waltzes, contains much that is excellent. In Vienna late in 2026, Oskar Gewinnler (who writes a column under the penname Sharkey) is approached by that classic noir mystery character, the widow of a friend. She is Petra Detmers, and she thinks her dead husband, Leo, was murdered. Doing a favor for a lady, Sharkey rapidly discovers that Leo was neither the biological child of his putative parents nor the father of Petra's child, but was in fact something else entirely, as well as an accomplished computerized bank robber. The plot rapidly expands to include the future social scene (a wonderfully described costume party), the ongoing war of high technology against high pollution, labyrinthine but clearly depicted politics and the entire history of genetic research. The final revelation concerns a project to create a population with no genetic weaknesses, and therefore immune to the genetically tailored biological agents expected to be unleashed any day. The last third of the book feels rushed, but otherwise this is an admirable work. Major and minor characters resonant with life, thanks in part to fluent dialogue, and the crisp detailing of everything from computer technology to fast food results in a vivid depiction of a Europe many of us may live to see. Here's a debut that deserves an encore. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Arriving on raves from Britain, Mathewss first novel is touted as a marriage of Blade Runner and The Third Man. Could any thriller live up to such advance billing? Well, like Greenes Harry Lime and Scotts replicant-chaser Deckard, Mathews's hero, society columnist Sharkey, has plenty of weight on the page, and his voice gives the story an exotic density of Weltschmerz and Schadenfreude woven amusingly with well-balanced electrono-pedantry and neo-Gibsoneque micrometric technojargon. (``In the breast pocket of the shirt was a C-series Bip-Bip Networker, powered by nanomechanical micro-reactors.'') Tittle-tattler Sharkey is called by Petra Detmers, the supremely attractive, extremely pregnant widow of Leo Detmers, a man Sharkey met but once, who has been killed by a car in Viennas Prater Park, scene of the sublime Ferris wheel episode in The Third Man. Petra has identified Leo's body at the hospital, where all his body parts were harvested, and she thinks her husband was murdered. That makes Leo quite dead, doesn't it? Will Sharkey help? The hack Sharkey says yes, but he isnt exactly brimming with the self-confidence one would hope for in someone setting out to right a wrong: ``I swear to God: If I wasn't such a shit, I'd hate myself,'' he informs us. The zither-dancing plot, set in 2026 during Vienna's first snowfall in seven years and larded with Plasmavision screens, Holocolor photos, and Saarinen tulip chairs, turns on eugenics and bioengineering and roots back through the Gulf War to the gruesome tinkering of Hitlers medical corps. The premise involves subjects of genetic experiments who have grown to adulthoodand a hero who may not be quite human himself. Tip-top charcoal character sketches, dandy dialogue, and atmospheric evocation of Vienna swimming in the dark waters of the future. The mood-showering prose slows the pace here and there, but that's little to pay for solid entertainment. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.