THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX by Brian Stableford
TOR, March 2001
Cop Lisa Frieman's life is thrown into turmoil when her home is invaded in the middle of the night. In a near-future world of overpopulation and social decline, someone has decided that Lisa's former mentor has made a discovery that will change the world. What that discovery is, and why Lisa would hide it, remains to be discovered. Working, occasionally in conjunction with her police colleagues and sometimes independently, Lisa discovers clues to the great secret--which must have something to do with the male/female conflict and something to do with immortality or emortality--the ability to continue living indefinitely. What indefinite lifespans would do to the already overcrowded Earth doesn't take a Cassandra to forecast.
Brian Stableford (see also other BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) has developed an interesting near-future world where megacorporations have combined into a cooperative cartel more powerful than any government and able to create effective laws of their own. The science he proposes all appears to flow naturally from existing science and from the advances of the late 1990s. The manipulated stock market crash seems even more realistic in 2001 when the novel is published than it would have when Stableford was writing. Likewise, the biological disaster of hoof-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease in Europe make Stableford's plague war credible.
THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX is marred by Stableford's need to overload the reader with information. Dialogue, in huge paragraphs of type, is used to lecture the reader on advances in technology, changes in society, and the nature of feminism in the twenty-first century. While this material is interesting, Stableford's presentation slows the narrative and detracts from the story. At times, the novel's greatest strength, its logical projection from modern society and science--becomes its greatest weakness because these concepts are beaten into our heads.
In balance, THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX is worth reading. The plot is strong enough to carry the overloaded superstructure of Stableford's prose. The situation and scenario are intrinsically compelling. Certainly the prospect of overpopulation and an impending population crash gives the characters motivation for their action and makes the reader root for their success.
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