by DL Jackson, futuristic (2010)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-653-1
DL Jackson's Slipping The Past is set in a bleak version of the near future, some 50 years from the present. Thanks to knowledge and technology given by some unnamed "otherworldly visitors", humans learn a technology to harvest souls into "crystal spheres" called "spectral cells", which are then used to power pretty much everything, from cities to machines. Advances in gene technology allow humans to be born with a huge boost in physical and intellectual capabilities.
The fact that humans are now stronger and longer-lived means that these folks also need to look elsewhere for human soul harvesting. First they harvest criminal souls, and when criminals begin to be in short supply, every human being identified to be "unforgiven" from birth is arrested for crimes committed in their past lives and given the spiritual scythe on their eighteenth birthday. Ho, ho, ho, there is now peace on earth, fa-la-la-la-la!
You know, I have to fight down this urge to take out a red pen and start nitpicking on this premise since there are so many things about the whole setting that do not go down well with science as we know it in the 21st century. I strongly suggest that you do the same if you want to have any hope of enjoying this story.
Anyway, in this perfect world we have the Enforcers, super humans who are plucked from birth and trained to identify and nab the soul of unforgivens. They are also called "reapers" for some reason, heh.
So here we are, in New Stratus City in year 2059, where two siblings are cold and hungry. The brother, Nate, decides to rob a store. Jocelyn, who is an unforgiven, is against the idea. The plan fails, naturally, or there will be no story. Jocelyn ends up in the hands of Gabriel Solaris, an Enforcer who has her pegged as a criminal for crimes dating back to 1102. Jocelyn, who is blind and suffering from all kinds of avant garde diseases to give her a waif-like vibe, listens to him listing out her crimes and realizes that she has loved him once and she doesn't want to live without him in her life again. Oh, and he takes away her diabetes... somehow.
Gabriel gives Jocelyn one week to prove her innocence, and he eventually comes close to tears because, you know, he has had such a loveless existence and he feels it too - they have been in love once. Ooh, love, love. Meanwhile, we have flashbacks to the past, a villain falsifying charges and bending the rules for his own nefarious purposes, and other happy stuff.
Slipping The Past is a busy story with an impressive, if not scientifically plausible, depiction of the future. Unfortunately, the story also offers superficial characterization and a romance based on something as flimsy as a shared love in a distant past that is somehow rekindled when the two lovebirds meet again in this life. I would have loved to see Jocelyn develop beyond the waif in distress, for example, and it will be nice to see more of Gabriel beyond his one-dimensional "I've never been loved before, am I not sad?" exterior. Because the author is relying heavily on "instant attraction" and other gimmicks to make the romance work instead of showing me how the two characters can come to fall in love, poor Gabriel ends up coming off as a pretty fickle and unreliable Enforcer who sells out for the first pretty face that catches his fancy.
It is the same with the rest of the story. The setting and the plot are certainly colorful, but the author rarely develops details beyond the superficial.
At the end of the day Slipping The Past is a story that has plenty to offer, but the author never quite succeeded in delivering the goods. There is a half-baked quality to this story, alas.
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