Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Approximate word count: 105-110,000 words
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Mark J Maxwell is a writer living in Dublin, Ireland. The London Project is his first novel. Mark would love to hear from you. He can be reached on twitter or at his website.
Set in a near-future London, England. Tech giant, Portal, has transformed the lives of the city’s residents. Portal’s centralized network is ubiquitous, its free services utilized for everything from communications to entertainment, transport to health care.
On the eve of the network’s expansion throughout the UK, Detective Sergeant Louisa Bennett investigates the death of a young girl. Her body covered in lacerations, the victim’s autopsy reveals an unidentifiable cellular structure permeating her brain. The case is further complicated when no trace of the girl can be found on Portal.
This was a mixed-bag read for me. On one hand, the author’s description of Portal was nothing short of brilliant. Not only from a technological perspective, but also from the social and cultural changes the technology caused in the lives of London’s citizens. Cars that drove themselves, healthcare records merged and immediately accessible, personal feeds that included the emotional responses of the provider available instantly to everyone who is hooked into the system. Now that makes Twitter following look stone-aged. TV ads tailored to the viewer’s preferences and featuring the viewer as a lifelike avatar in the action—wow! Great stuff. I really got my geek on J.
Portal has sensors embedded in road signs, street lamps . . . just about everywhere. Everyone is tracked and traced both through their connected devices and through face recognition software, which is a huge boon to law enforcement and is where the flaw that drives the plot occurs.
Detective Louisa Bennett is tasked with investigating the murder of a teenage girl who has no profile in Portal. So, not only must the detective find out whodunit, but also figure how this girl can possibly be unknown to the system. The story follows Louisa as she works her way to a solution to the murder and in the process discovers a huge conspiracy.
Overall the novel worked, although there were some sketchy plot devices used later in the story to force the climax. But for this reader it moved too slowly. Louisa’s investigation involved a couple meetings with higher-ups in Portal, and some involvement with MI6. These side plots threw more characters into the mix and were written with as much detail as the main line, so rather than the story accelerating to a grand finale showdown, it meandered so much that I found myself skip reading parts of the final third.
But this is a first novel, and Mr. Maxwell is a good writer with a knack for building futuristic worlds.
UK English spelling and usage, but nothing that would cause a major misunderstanding.
Rating: **** Four stars