Public defender Mary Choy must investigate the death of two prostitutes involved in illegal nano- transformations and the strange case of a billionaire who seems to have committed suicide. These are some of the cases that suddenly are becoming frequent, an abnormality all the more worrying because those who have some mental problem can undergo very sophisticated therapies. Even the psychotherapist Martin Burke suspect that there’s something going on after discovering several cases in which the therapy went into a kind of regression.
Jack Giffey is a key element of a very ambitious plan that aims to break into the Omphalos, a building in the separatist state of Green Idaho that of which the exact content isn’t known. According to various rumors some billionaires want to use it as a kind of fortress where they can stay in suspended animation waiting for a better future but is that the truth?
Jill, the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence, has been contacted by another artificial mind of which, however, she can’t recognize the origin, a fact theoretically impossible. The information she can gather about it are limited and become more and more worrying because it seems to have no ethical boundaries normally present in AIs.
“/ Slant” belongs to the series called Quantum Logic but can be read independently. Some of the characters have appeared in the novel “Queen of Angels” and reading this novel first is certainly a good idea but it’s not essential because the story told in this sequel is independent.
Having read “Queen of Angels” is useful not only because it’s a good novel but also because Greg Bear creates the background in which “/ Slant” is set as well a few years in its future. In particular, there are nanotechnology, incredibly sophisticated mental therapies and artificial intelligence, starting with Jill.
In “Queen of Angels” Greg Bear had already shown how this future in theory utopian thanks to those technologies still has several problems, in “/ Slant” he explores the dark side of that society managing to write a novel even more complex than the previous one.
Many people are unsatisfied for various reasons but basically the problem of a part of the population is having a hard time connecting to someone else or something. Among them there’s a group called the disAffected and for many of them a way to escape is the Yox, an advanced form of pornography. In “/ Slant” there’s a fair amount of sex, far more than generally Greg Bear include in his stories.
In this situation there are those who want to radically change things but it seems the case where the cure is worse than the disease. The separatist state of the Green Idaho rejected the culture of mental therapies but threw the baby out with the bathwater and has become an out-of-date place full of hypocrisy from which young people are fleeing.
An even more radical attempt to change society is the basis of the story told in “/ Slant” with the mystery linked to the regression of the effects of mental therapies. Various elements linked to this attempt are developed in various subplots with a number of characters who show different sides of that society.
Even for the people who have already read “Queen of Angels” especially the beginning of “/ Slant” can be difficult because several characters are introduced in subplots that initially appear sometimes completely unrelated. From this point of view, in my opinion “/ Slant” isn’t entirely successful because it’s impossible to have a perfect balance between so many subplots. Some of them have less space and some important characters aren’t particularly developed.
This is one of the reasons why it’s an advantage the have read “Queen of Angels” since the character of Martin Burke had already been developed in that novel. In “/ Slant” his subplot is limited so if the readers don’t already know him they might forget him when Greg Bear neglects him for over a hundred pages.
The positive side and in my opinion crucial for the value of the novel is that in the end Greg Bear brings together all the various subplots in the final part, where many secrets are revealed in a series of twists and turns. In much of “/ Slant” action is limited or is virtual as in the subplot dedicated to Jill, so the pace is sometimes slow. There are still moments that can be even very intense but it’s in the final part that many things really happen.
In some ways , “/ Slant” completes “Queen of Angels”, providing more in-depth descriptions of the society at half of the 21st century. The result is really complex and I understand that someone might not like it. Both novels are controversial for this reason but personally I think that despite some flaws “/ Slant” is excellent. If its complexity doesn’t scare you and especially if you’ve already survived reading “Queen of Angels” its sequel is even better I recommend reading it.