The Forever Watch
by David Ramirez
Cover Artist: Alan Books
Review by Mel Jacob
Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250033819
Date: 22 April 2014 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Forever Watch, the debut novel by David Romeriz, uses many familiar science fiction story favorites, but provides a new and fresh read. After the destruction of Earth, survivors flee on a millennium journey to a new planet. Their society is highly structured. When the mentor of a policeman dies a horrific death, his colleague demands answers. He enlists the help of a highly placed friend to find that information. Neither he nor the friend is prepared for what they find.
The novel opens slowly with Hana Dempsey, a City Planning Administrator, giving birth to a child. She has been impregnated and sedated for nine months until the birth. This process of sedated pregnancy is the norm for all women chosen to breed. She never sees the child. After a short recovery, she returns to work, mourning the loss of her child.
At her welcome back party, she talks with her friend, Leon, a police bruiser. He is out of place with her other friends and belongs to a lower stratum of society. Hana harbors a secret affection for him and agrees to help him find information to solve the killing of his mentor.
Hana has exceptional programming and data manipulation skills. As they search the various files of recent deaths, they soon discover other such deaths and disappearances. What monster accounts for these? Is someone in authority causing these events? If so, why?
She initially programs the search routines, and he adds to them. Soon the list of dead and missing becomes overwhelming. Hanaís programs take on a life of their own and become self-replicating. As the search continues the relationship between Leon, the cop, and Hana Dempsey grows and soon becomes a full-blown affair.
The search entails plenty of risk for Hana and Leon. He makes contact with others who share his concerns, and they form groups intent on revealing the deceptions they discover to society as whole. None of them realizes the true situation or where their actions will lead.
Soon the novel descends into an action adventure story, and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of who built the ship, why women are sedated in pregnancy, what happens to the children, and the goal of the migration. Ramirez keeps some answers until the very end.
The story examines many themes: what constitutes artificial intelligence, the nature and reasons for a closed society, death, love, and survival. Iíve tried to avoid spoilers in this review. I found it well worth reading and welcome the arrival of such a talented author. Most readers will look forward to Ramirezís next novel. I hope itís soon.