What is Mercury’s Son?
Valko can see the last moments of a victim’s life.
It comes at a price — a scrap of flesh cut from his brain and replaced with an implant. Bound to a drug that lets him use his insight, but brings with it the pain of synthetic emotion, he’s at war with himself.
Now a killer has found a way to hide from him and two people are dead. Someone wants to keep their secrets buried. The trail leads out into the wasteland where death flies on the wind as nanotech dust.
Manipulated and betrayed, Valko must get to the truth before his time runs out.
If he only knew who to trust, maybe he’d have a chance, but a man with an artificial soul can’t even trust himself …
MERCURY’S SON is an interesting post-apocalypse science fiction story which strikes me as a bit like a combination of BLADE RUNNER and MEMENTO. The protagonists are people who can’t necessarily trust their own memories and beliefs because it’s a society where indoctrination as well as cybernetics means just about everyone has had their head screwed with.
The premise is Earth has been devastated in a nuclear/nanotechnology war which means that humanity is forced to survive in arcologies while the planet is slowly reclaimed. Unfortunately, the planet is now under the control of a insane Gaia-worshiping fundamentalist religion that hates science but uses it in very controlled amounts. Thousands of humans are sent to their death every year to try clean the Earth by hand, believing this is an appropriate atonement for humanity’s sins.
The Temple of the Wounded Mother is just one of the elements of the complicated environmentally devastated hellhole which Luke E.T. Hindmarsh has created. It’s very much a cyberpunk novel with humanity packed together in tightly cramped confines where human life is cheap both because and despite the fact mankind is run by a ruthless theocracy. Even if the government is, officially, secular. That’s not even getting to the fact there’s a drug which allows people to have their minds read as a major part of the story.
For the most part, Mercury’s Son is “just” a murder mystery. A state-employed scientist was murdered along with someone else in a hotel room and our primary protagonist, Valko, is assigned to investigate. From there things get increasingly over-the-top with investigation in who destroyed the world, berserker states for cyborgs, false memories, and deciding who is actually a believer or not among the various protagonists.
This is a book with a lot of twists and turns and, to be fair in my review, not all of them are really necessary. I think this is a book which would have benefited from sticking with one protagonist throughout the work. It was easy to get lost at times with the betrayals, lies, and sudden shifts in what was true as well as what was false. Clones, mind-control, brainwashing, and more only add to it.
Despite this, I had to say I actually really liked the world and the obvious effort which went into creating its society. The Temple of the Wounded Mother is an entirely believable religion which is neither a caricature or something which has its crimes glossed over. The opponents to the religion in the Remnant and Whitecoats aren’t exactly saints either.
I also liked how the author wasn’t afraid to have the protagonists have some repellent beliefs, religious or otherwise, that confused how they would react to various events. The discovery of someone researching FTL travel, for example, is treated as equivalent to being a child sex-trafficker for how the Wounded Mother religion reviews the idea of humanity spreading.
In conclusion, I was torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. The narrative was a bit confusing and I occasionally got lost but I think it’s overall, a very good book. So, because I want to see more in the series, 5 stars.