Lev AC Rosen
I've always enjoyed both mysteries and science fiction, and I am pleased to find an increasing number of authors who apparently feel the same way. Lev AC Rosen's Depth is a fine, if flawed, example of the combination, setting a fairly traditional detective story in a future version of New York City that is as integral to the novel as the characters and plot. The latter elements are executed adequately, with all of the requisite twists and even a few genuine surprises. A variety of betrayals, dead ends, dark corners, and femmes fatale lend the book a pleasantly noir-ish ambiance, along with a fairly straightforward plot that nonetheless conveys the complexity of Rosen's imagined future. Moreover, he ably juggles a large suspect pool while playing his true cards close to the vest; a sufficient number of (occasionally heartbreaking) wrinkles should satisfy even those readers who are not wholly surprised when the culprits are revealed.
Unfortunately, most of the novel's characters are drawn directly from a pool of unimaginative archetypes, contrasting dramatically with the obvious effort that created and calibrated the setting and plot. Characters consistently exchange stale dialogue littered with annoying as-you-know-Bob explanations and confessions that leave little to no room for honest, subtle characterization. Somehow, despite the stilted speech and character descriptions that excessively tell (with very little show), the relationships themselves are reasonably realistic. And even if he doesn't quite succeed in the attempt, I appreciate Rosen's decision to write a novel revolving around female characters. Women appear in a variety of roles throughout the book and are, happily, on equal footing with their male counterparts.
The book, then, is saved by the vividness of its vision of flooded Manhattan, where the few remaining inhabitants live in the upper floors of the tallest skyscrapers and travel along a treacherous network of precarious bridges. This imagined future is nothing if not thorough, and Rosen carefully (but consistently) reveals subtle and major truths about this new world, from everyday practicalities to the parallel development of now-isolated New York and the ultra-religious mainland (which now begins around Chicago). Rosen seamlessly integrates setting and story, forcing the issue only with his exaggerated view of mainland politics; rarely relevant to the plot, the strength of his vitriol says more about his own opinions than it does about those of the mainland. As he often does when describing his characters or writing dialogue, Rosen tends to hit his satirical points a bit too blatantly for them to function as meaningful criticism.
Still, Depth is a satisfying book, even if its author could do more to fully explore the hidden themes that seem to float just beneath its surface. Rosen clearly demonstrates his devotion to clever and thorough worldbuilding, and the setting is surely rich enough to support a range of equally interesting stories. This endlessly compelling backdrop ultimately outweighs the heavy-handed moralizing and awkward characterization that cause the plot to limp along at times. For a book emerging from a genre blender, Depth is remarkably readable, combining some of the best elements of detective and science fiction to create something new and enjoyable despite some obvious flaws.