A diamond-hard, visionary new SF thriller. Nailed-down cyberpunk a la William Gibson for the 21st century meets the vivid dark futures of Al Reynolds in this extraordinary debut novel.
With Earth abandoned, humanity resides on Station, an industrialised asteroid run by the sentient corporations of the Pantheon. Under their leadership a war has been raging against the Totality - ex-Pantheon AIs gone rogue.
With the war over, Jack Forster and his sidekick, Hugo Fist, a virtual puppet tied to Jack's mind and created to destroy the Totality, have returned home.
Labelled a traitor for surrendering to the Totality, all Jack wants is to clear his name, but when he discovers two old friends have died under suspicious circumstances he also wants answers. Soon he and Fist are embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not only their future but all of humanity's.
But with Fist's software licence about to expire, taking Jack's life with it, can they bring down the real traitors before their time runs out?
©2015 Al Robertson (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
The story was incredible and fresh, the performance excellent... I really hope Al Robertson writes a lot more SF.
The one negative, not to do with the story or performance, is the editing of the audiobook. Particularly in the first few parts, there are multiple takes of the same passage. This should be fixed.
"Good Enough for a Second Listen"
“Crashing Heaven” reminds me of the “Culture Books” by Iain M Banks who died in 2013. After he passed away, I thought I would never again encounter AI’s (Artificial Intelligence) with unimaginable intellect but also with unrestrained emotions that sometimes leads to disastrous consequences. (We all know very smart people who occasionally do really stupid things.) This is a buddy book that pairs a man with an AI as they investigate a mysterious crime. The human represents common sense and the AI represents both logic and emotion. There is action, technology and many tense moments.
"AIs as a rogue nation"
Crashing Heaven is Al Roberston's debut novel. Set in a far future, artificial intelligences (AIs) run humanity, essentially replacing religion as humans align with the particular entities associated with their line of work or entertainment. Termed the Pantheon, the tale begins at the conclusion of a solar system wide war with a different AI cabal, the Totality, Jack a soldier, but former forensic accountant, who had surrendered to the Totality is repatriated back to Pantheon and proceeds to reinvigorate the murder investigation that instigated his current state. What he stumbles upon is crime, corruption, and manipulation on a grand scale, necessitating an assault on the Pantheon stronghold known as Heaven.
The sci-fi elements are mainly centered around digital / electronic / virtual reality, that comes off as William Gibson squared. AIs dominate the landscape with a blurring of the lines between human and machine intelligence. Even the deceased remain as digital versions known as "fetches" while virtual reality is seamlessly integrated with real space to create whole new environments. The dominance of AIs is taken for granted, but the underlying theme is that even AIs can succumb to petty, human foibles and turning important decision over to the new "gods" is no recipe for success.
The narration is excellent with a good range of voices and solid pacing.
"Very unique idea, story left a bit to be desired"
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, and I'll eventually re-read it. But it wasn't one of my favorites. The story was good but not as fast paced as I was hoping. But the idea of gods in science fiction is so innovative that I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come.
"A great new author"
If you enjoy Peter F. Hamilton, specifically the Greg Mandel series, you'll love this story. Hoping for more in the series and from this author.
Thomas Judd is a very good narrator.
Production could be been slightly better, the editor missed some repeats of spoken lines.
"Enjoyed it, but still not sure why!"
First of all, Thomas Judd was a joy to listen to. I'll admit that sometimes a British narrator will hinder my enjoyment, but Judd was fantastic. He really nailed the evolution of the Fist Character, subtly changing his tenor as Fist became a fully developed entity.
The rest of the story is fascinating, but at times difficult to track. There is a ton of back story the listener is left to fill in themselves. I think I will give this another listen, and I have a feeling my rating will go to 5 stars as when I do. The world of virtual entities and The cyberpunk sensibility are well executed here, and I am anxious to try something else from Robertson. Particularly if it is read by Judd.
"Not As Advertised"
This work was advertised as a “diamond-hard, visionary new SF thriller.” The work is not as described. It was more a fantasy tale with puppets and faeries overlaid with a skin of sci-fi techno babble of the computer programming sort. So we hear about such improbables as a “digital breeze”. Because the author is a Brit, we get all this up-to-the-second sounding techno babble, but the characters still use “torches” to light their way around dark places. No rules seem to govern events; things just happened. The writing describes rather than demonstrates and that is a very flat way to present a story. Characters were not believable and I found it hard to develop an interest in them, especially in the annoying Pinocchio character. The book’s reader is no Frank Muller. This reader has an annoying habit is separating the dialogue from its cue, to wit: “Look out!” - [pause] – “he shouted.” About half way through, I began to wonder why I was listening to the work, which never happens for me with a well-written novel. If you crave “diamond-hard, visionary” SF, then listen to “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson or “Altered Carbon” by Robert K. Morgan or “The Ascendant” by Drew Chapman, all available from Audible.
"Imaginative, fun, but sometimes confusing thriller"
Crashing Heaven is kind of a future sci fi dystopia in which humanity lives solely in a space station after Earth is decimated. The station is ruled over by the Pantheon, AIs who exist in the virtual reality overlay called the Weave. Also out there are other AIs called the Totality. Jack was installed with a symbiotic "puppet" called Fist who was designed to fight the Totality. Only Jack surrended to them instead after discovering the war was unjust. When he returns to Station, he gets involved in a murder investigation that ultimately leads to him trying to discover which Pantheon God was responsible.
Ultimately the world is very, very imaginative and the story was very compelling. I didn't fully know what was going on most of the time though, so it could have helped to have a little more backstory and explanation. It took me a long while before I understood exactly what this puppet was, what the Weave was, what the Pantheon was, etc. The interplay between Jack and Fist was really fun and it was quite satisfying to see their relationship (and Fist's personality) evolve and grow through the novel.
The narrator did a fine job with all the voices and the reading, and his British accent added some charm to the reading.
The only thing I wasn't overly enthusiastic about (other than the confusing nature of a lot of the concepts) was the profanity. It's pretty much in every other sentence. It is amazing that centuries from now, people would be using the exact same profanity as today. Hmm.
Anyways, it was a fun listen and the story wrapped up in a nice, satisfying way. There were lots of heavy themes explored (what it means to die, how humans differ from AIs, how the digital world compares to the physical, etc.) and that was enlightening and interesting. And it was never really boring, which is a plus.
NOTE: I received this audiobook for free in exchange for an honest review.
"fast, furious fun."
I really enjoyed this blockbusting story. it read like a movie, with some really fun action, and lots of cool ideas. very cyber punk without being clunky. simple narrative isn't challenging, but is engaging.
"doesn't exactly crash Heaven"
Crashing Heaven is a techo sci fi, filled with decent ideas of AIs, gods and and semi alien race. It is a thriller and a predictable detective story. It holds together fairly well but marred by the excessive use of bad language.
Now, I'm not a prude and will accept it if it fits the character but here it is just too much of it. It became tiresome and started distracting from the story.
"Neuromancer for the 21st Century"
Dazzling. Original. Exciting
Landing in the "afterlife"
as he did them all as they generally do, all of them.
This book may have just tipped Snow Crash into the No2 slot for best Cyberpunk novel ever, it really is very very good.
I stopped reading cyberpunk years ago so was a bit worried this 21st century cyberpunk novel would be a disappointment.
I shouldn't have, as this is an engrossing thriller set in a far future no humans live on Earth anymore.
Narration was good but I had to drop playback speed to x1.5 to understand the narrator.
"Fantastic new cyberpunk"
One of the best cyberpunk books I've read in some time.
There are elements of Pinocchio weaved intp the noir story, and it's a funny book.
As a fan of cyberpunk and sci fi its nice to see a new author coming into the scene.
I love Fist - dry and cutting the way I like a character
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