Vienna Blood Mass Market Paperback – Feb 15 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
From Kirkus Reviews
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.
Top Customer Reviews
1) The author's stilted writing style. Mathews' choice of words seems entirely at odds with the story he is trying to tell, and serves only to annoy the reader.
2) Poor use of Vienna as the novel's setting. The description of the city often consists of little more than place-name-dropping (This, incidentally, is often marred by typographical errors, especially in the second half of the book, when it seems as if the editors have also lost interest. Actually, this is too bad, since Mathews' writing definitely improves as the Vienna Blood goes on). To this he adds rehashes of old quotations about the Viennese mentality. It is hard to shake the impression that the author does not know the city as intimately as he would like to have the reader believe.
3) The lack of a credible futuristic atmosphere. Certainly, there are all sorts of techno-gadgets and glimpses of life in 2026-27, but nearly all of the cultural references made by Vienna Blood's characters are to people, places and events of the 20th century. These characters, therefore, come across as likely inhabitants of the present day, not the 2020s, destroying whatever suspension of disbelief has been built up.
Unfortunately, these shortcomings are rather major, making it impossible to recommend Vienna Blood. While not a complete disaster, there are far better and more satisfying ways to spend an evening.
I found the language irritatingly florid-- Mathews seemed to be writing from some obscure rule that required using the most obscure word possible for any given possibility. And I can't imagine that I was the only person who found the ending quite distasteful-- what exactly was he trying to say?
Some nice Vienna atmosphere, but unless you're really bored, I'd skip this one.