The clone of a mercenary named Steward wakes up and is tasked with finding out who killed the original. The only problem is his memories are fifteen years out of date. The Beta Steward wanders through his Alpha's former life, piecing together the last fifteen years in an effort to solve his murder. His search takes him from the earth to far flung colonies. Can Steward find his own murderer without being killed himself?
Voice of the Whirlwind, while on the surface is a combination of cyberpunk and space opera, is really a layered murder mystery. Steward wanders through the wreckage of his Alpha's former life and gradually pieces things together. Twists and turns abound. Since this wasn't my first invite to a detective party, I had a lot of the angles figured out by the end but not nearly all of them. This thing has as many angles as a dodecahedron. It's a real word. Look it up!
The world Walter Jon Williams has created is a step beyond the other cyberpunk stories written in that bygone age of 1987. While Steward is a fairly typical cyberpunk protagonist in most respects, most of the story takes place on space stations.
The best part of the book is the background Williams serves up, namely the Alpha Steward's stint with the Icehawks, a mercenary army, during a conflict called the Artifact War, a war over caches of alien artifacts littering other planets, notably a fateful ball of ice called Sheol. The aliens, simply called The Powers, aren't just humans with rubber masks. They're sort of centaur-amoeba things that I have difficulty describing. Needless to say, they are very alien aliens.
The tech level was pretty standard cyberpunk stuff: mirror shades, leather, monofilament, exotic firearms, cybernetics. Actually, Williams threw in a lot of gene splicing and his science regarding living in space and space travel was actually harder than I thought it would be.
I'm nearing the end of my book report here and can't decide how to rate Voice of the Whirlwind. I enjoyed it quite a bit but I wouldn't say I thought it was amazing. I will say that it has aged a lot better than many of its contemporaries. While I smiled when Steward had to use phone booths, Williams manages to keep most of the computer details pretty high level, unlike William Gibson in Neuromancer. Hell, I'll give it a 4 but that's in and of itself, not a reflection on the rest of the books on my shelf.