In a former United States devastated by economic and political collapse, former police officer Nick Bottom, a Flashback addict like much of the country, is pulled from the ruins of his former life and hired by a Japanese businessman to solve the six year old murder of his son. But what does the murder have to do with the car accident that killed his wife and sent him into Flashback's warm embrace?
When I saw that Dan Simmons' next book was going to be called Flashback, I pre-ordered it immediately. Flashback is a drug that allows the user to relive memories and was first introduced by Simmons in the wonderful Hyperion Cantos, one of my all-time favorite books. Did it live up to the standard set by Hyperion? I'll tell you in a little while...
There were a lot of things I liked about Flashback. Flashback and the culture surrounding it made a great plot device. I thought that using Nick Bottom's Flashback addiction to explore his own memories to help investigate who killed Nakamura's son was a pretty novel idea. I liked the converging plotlines with Nick's estranged son Val and his father-in-law Leonard. I liked the relationship with Nick and Sato, Nakamura's watchdog. I loved the references to other Simmons books like Hardcase and Hyperion and the references to Shakespeare and Keats. Most of all, I loved the serpentine nature of the mystery and how it had to do with Dara's death. The world was very well constructed and was a bit of a throwback to the cyberpunk dystopias of the 80's.
That's a lot of likes but the dislike was very hard to ignore. The tone of the book was so conservative that it made Rush Limbaugh seem like Hilary Clinton by comparison. While I can understand that since the setting is a dystopia ruled by a Caliphate of militant Muslim there was going to be some anti-Muslim sentiments, the anti-Muslim venom Simmons spewed liberally throughout the text got harder and harder to ignore. Simmons also goes on to bash health care reform, global warming, green technology, and a lot of other things. While I'm all for people thinking for themselves and having their own political beliefs and even found myself agreeing with Simmons on a few points, I don't think a novel is the right place to showcase those beliefs. I didn't like it when Heinlein did it, I hated it when Brad Thor did it, and I sure don't like Simmons doing it now. He took a great premise and went all Sean Penn with it.
So did Flashback live up to the standard set by Hyperion? It did not but not for lack of trying. If Simmons wouldn't have been so ham-fisted with the political stuff, I would have rated it much higher. Even still, I found it to be a pretty enjoyable read once I learned to avoid the political diatribes. I guess the final verdict will have to be a 3.