The Demi Monde (Winter)
Author: Rod Rees
Publisher: Quercus Books
Page count: 522pp
Release Date: 29th Sept 2011
Reviewer: Andy Angel
The Demi-Monde – a computer simulation designed for the US military, peopled by some of the most dangerous and psychopathic characters from history, for training the US military in Asymmetric Warfare Environments. It is “the first simulation product ever to be platformed on and operated by the ABBA quantum computer” This computer has enough processing power to simulate sentience in the Dupes (the ‘characters in the simulation’) and herein lies the root of the problem. The US military want to shut the simulation down but the Dupe leaders have other ideas!
They have managed to trap Norma Williams, the daughter of the US President in the Demi-Monde and have shut down all but one of the access ports. Until Norma can be rescued the Demi-Monde continues to exist.
Enter Ella Thomas, an eighteen year old American who is the perfect match (indeed, the ONLY match) for a dormant Dupe in the Simulation, who has to go in, rescue the President’s daughter and get her out.
The first section of this book sets the story up well, telling you all you need to know about the Demi-Monde, while having every alternative chapter actually set in the Demi-Monde. An appetiser, if you will.
The second section, though, really steps things up a gear as Ella enters the Simulation and we are introduced to more of the Demi-Monde’s inhabitants such as Vanka Maykov, who takes Ella under his wing and, one of my favourite characters in the early sections, the disreputable club owner Burlesque Bandstand who has great comedy value.
The world of the Demi-Monde is a semi-steampunk Victorian setting and very well realised. It is split into different sections representing various ‘Real World’ settings, all side by side with the five main sections (Noirville, The Coven, Rodina, The Rookeries and Quartier Chaud) separated by five rivers. Each area has its own belief systems and ideas for rule. This first book in the series deals only with events in The Rookeries and a small part of Rodina.
It is obvious from early on that there is more going on than meets the eye and later books will open the story out even more. Thankfully I have volume two (Spring) near to hand as Winter finishes on three separate cliffhangers.
There is a lot of ‘derring-do’, capture and escape and general rollicking adventure in this book, which means the story rattles along at a good old pace – I reviewed from the Hard Back edition and though it is a chunky doorstop of a book it was over far too soon. The characters are very well defined and believable (the transformation of Trixie Dashwood is especially well done). The world comes to life off the page and feels real, and it also reminded me of the gaming worlds of, for example, Grand Theft Auto, where you are only allowed to play in one section until you have completed set tasks. The other areas are there, you can see them, but you can’t get into them yet – I am looking forward immensely to visiting these places in the remaining three books