The Forever Watch, by David Ramirez, takes a much used science fiction trope and injects it with enough excitement, pathos and originality to produce a thoroughly satisfying read.
The story is set on a massive spaceship called The Noah which is on a thousand year journey to a new planet following the destruction of Earth. The on board society is tightly controlled with hierarchies based on ability. Each citizen is wired into the Nth web, a computer system that monitors and controls all activity. When even thoughts can be read the only chance of privacy is the inability of the controllers to sift through the volume of data available to them.
The protagonist, Hana Dempsey, is a mid level bureaucrat who uncovers a disturbing secret and sets out in search of the truth. As a result, she and her partner become the catalyst for events that threaten the existence of all on board the ship. Is it sometimes better that secrets remain known only to a few?
Having read so many other books that started out with a similar premise I was around a quarter to halfway through before the plot had truly pulled me in. The first section is well enough written and the scene had to be set but I felt it lacked originality. Once it got going though I realised that the author was not going to follow the well worn path I had expected.
There are many books where a few good men overcome an evil administration but this story goes much further looking at reasons, consequences and the knock on effects of a wider dissemination of state secrets. If the price of peace and survival is a lie then should it be told?
The book is tightly written with a complicated plot that moves along at a rollicking pace. The detail is impressive making the technologies seem possible in that environment. Despite the powers that the people have, human nature with its many flaws remains and is explored. The society is satisfyingly diverse. All are expected to know their place and obey the rules or risk Adjustment.
The denouement ties up the many threads and, without descending into saccharin, left me feeling replete. The final line was inspired.
If you enjoy good science fiction then read this book. A slow burning start that could light up the way you think about the structures on which society is built.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Hodder and Stoughton.