The Pixel Eye by Paul Levinson
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0765305569 PubDate: 08/01/03
Review by Edward Carmien
288 pgs. List price $ 24.95
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Phil D’Amato, Levinson’s near-future forensic detective, is asked to investigate the Case of the Missing Squirrels.
If that was all that was going on, The Pixel Eye would be short and amusing, at best. Naturally, there’s more. Hamsters are involved, along with the Department of Homeland Security. Secrets, lies, terrorists, technology, science, it is all here.
Levinson’s prose is engaging and readable. Long time readers of science fiction should consider him their first choice when it comes to spreading the word of sf via book-buying (for gifts) or lending. Readers fond of the detective genre will find very little to raise their eyebrows about in the Phil D’Amato books. Levinson is faithful to the detective genre, though in The Pixel Eye he blends in some spicy spy elements, and D’Amato isn’t solving a murder so much as a larger conundrum.
Like other writers of detective fiction, Levinson is a thorough student of the setting in which his detective works (New York City) and of the culture in which his detective lives and breathes.
Keeping up with the array and variety of references—pop culture and high culture both—is half the fun of reading one of these novels. Movies, books, music, architecture—seemingly all areas of human endeavor are part of D’Amato’s world. Levinson keeps his near future alive and breathing with these references, one of the things that makes these novels so approachable for new SF readers.
The science of this future world is crisp and believable in most instances. There are no world-changing technologies in place—no teleportation, no cheap space travel—just ordinary technology made better. Cell phones take thumb-prints, to verify the user, protestors carry high-tech displays on poles instead of old-fashioned posters on sticks, and programs that can mimic human communication (or more?) exist. In short, where a hard-science fiction devotee will have some questions about absent side effects of a small number of these technologies, new readers especially should have no difficulty incorporating these invented or just-emergent technologies into their understanding of the novel.
Levinson doesn’t dodge grim reality—his near-future New York City is a city damaged by terrorism, his near-future America is fighting a war on terrorism. One of D’Amato’s concerns is the same as many people have today, but with more technology to think about: which is more important, public safety or personal privacy? In addition, our friend Phil asks quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (thanks, Moore and Gibbons).
The detective of The Pixel Eye doesn’t answer these questions in so many words, but Levinson creates for D’Amato an interesting opportunity near the end of the novel that will probably provide a wider scope for future Phil D’Amato novels. One of the rules of successful series fiction is: don’t get stale. One has a feeling Levinson is planning interesting and fresh things for D’Amato’s future.
Be certain, whatever happens, that Phil D’Amato will never look at squirrels again in quite the same way….