The Demi-Monde: Winter
by Rod Rees
Review by Steve Sawicki
William Morrow Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062070340
Date: 27 December 2011 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Demi-Monde is a virtual world created by the military so that they could better train soldiers, especially to the new type of warfare being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. The military contracted to have a system built that would not only allow total immersion but which would allow participants to feel actual pain, injury, and death (remember, the military does live fire exercises all the time). Then they decided to throw in some wildcards. They gave the system control of itself and they populated it with copies of people from the real world. Then, in what they thought was a stroke of genius in order to add a chaotic, wild-card factor to the system, they made the leaders of each area in the system a serial killer or psycho.
As any good system will do, this one begins a plan of self serving survival. The serial killers begin an internal civil war designed to get rid of the weak and impure. No problem, except the serial killers have managed to lure in some high profile participants, such as the president's daughter. So, the system can't be shut off, she can't just be extracted, and the military is not sure the best way to get her out--except for this one plan which involves sending in a lone girl, a jazz singer, with all the knowledge of the system at her disposal, as a last gasp attempt.
This book was first published in Great Britain to very good reviews. The second thing you should know is that it is not a stand alone novel. This is Winter, the next book will be Spring and, one assumes, there will be two more books following. This is not a bad thing as it will probably take four books to fully get in to the unique universe that Rod Rees has created. It will take a whole book just to get into the way Rees utilizes language. He has brilliantly turned common English into a complex play on words that has major implications for an entire world. And, at the end of book one, the AI and the psychos who run that world have plans on breaking out into the real world so there's plenty of material to go around here and Rees seems to be the right writer for the job.
I liked this book. At first I was a bit thrown by the military sending one twenty something girl at the problem but once you get beyond that everything is simply a joy to discover and as entertaining as hell. If you love language you will love what Rees does here. If you love the thought of letting psychotics run the world then you'll certainly enjoy the world as well. Or maybe you already believe that and this will just confirm your beliefs.
Rees has done a great job with creating characters who are genuinely fun to be around, even when they're doing pure evil. This is going to be one kick-ass series and you owe it to yourself to get in right at the beginning. You don't want to be the one that someone else is recommending this book to. Highly recommended.