Shadowhawk reviews the second Richards and Klein novel by Guy Haley, Omega Point, continuing the story of Richards and Otto Klein as the two try to save the world.
“A novel that is incredibly unconventional, Omega Point continues the misfit adventures of the Class Five AI Richards and his cyborg partner Otto.” ~The Founding Fields
Note: Contains minor spoilers.
Like I mentioned in my review of first Richards and Klein novel, Reality 36, Guy Haley has created a really unusual world full of near-intelligent and self-aware robots and some highly tricked up cyborgs in a world that is in many respects not that different from the world today. That really is the biggest draw of these novels, their unconventionality. If for nothing else, not even that awesome cover art, this is the reason that people should pick up these novels for.
Omega Point begins much better than its predecessor, partly because Guy has finally hit his stride in this novel and partly because this is a direct continuation of events from Reality 36. I certainly enjoyed the opening chapters far more which is a big plus for the novel. It made it easier to re-connect with the larger narrative and with the characters.
One of the really neat things in the novel is the characterisation, which is superb and builds really well from what I had already seen in Reality 36. Richards, divested of a key part of his nature, is true to form with his incessant swearing and his deliberations on the nature of human life while Otto as the tortured widower and former soldier also gets ample screentime alongside Veroniqe whose scenes are just delicious. We see a lot more backstory to Otto in the novel, which makes him a really well-rounded character compared to Richards, much of the Five’s past still untouched upon. It was a slight letdown in the novel for me because Richards is as unconventional a character as the entire world that Guy has created. I was rather looking forwards to learning more about Richards. Veronique was also nicely delivered on, especially when compared against Otto. We see her finally start flexing her hacker muscles in Omega Point, with her trusty smartphone-sidekick Chloe.
Characterisation is definitely one of Guy’s strengths and it shows through amply in his writing.
While I love each of these three protagonists equally, I did develop a soft spot for two of the side characters: Bear and Tarquin. The former is a new character while Tarquin is the reincarnation of the lion Tarquinis from the previous novel. The banter between the two, Tarquin’s dry-witted commentaries and Bear’s ramblings and heroics are just pure win. Bear especially is a really endearing character, a stuffed toy trapped in the Realm Worlds. His character arc was highly enjoyable and I definitely applaud Guy for including him in this novel and giving him such coverage.
The pacing of the novel is still a little off for me. The highs and lows don’t quite gel together and it seems that every chapter, told from a different POV almost every time, has its highs and lows which themselves don’t carry over well for the following chapter. Made for some odd reading but overall, the narrative moves along well. It doesn’t get bogged down in unnecessary detail, unless you count flashbacks as unnecessary (which I don’t). So that’s something.
World-building is another of Guy’s strength and he really delivers on that. We see more of this near-future Earth through Otto, Veronique and their various companions while Richards has been shunted over to Reality 37 and has to deal with the mismatched and make-no-sense-at-all freaks there in. Each of these two “settings” are separate from each other thematically and stylistically, which makes for an easy read. I never got confused between the chapters and while the two (major) side-plots continue at their own pace, they do keep the main narrative ticking along, coming together quite explosively near the end, to an ending that is as unforeseen as it is, once again, unconventional.
Reality 37 is nicely rendered through Guy’s writing but at times it borders on the this-is-extremely-silly line for me. Animals of various stripes fighting alongside humans that are as mismatched as them all going up against monsters from old games, all of whom have found a sort of hideout in Reality 37. When a certain villain by the name of the Punning Pastry Chef and his airship, the Flan o’War, make an appearance, or Hedgehog army officers I was a little lost for worlds. Not to mention the chef and pastry jokes courtesy of Richards, Bear and Tarquin. I appreciate all that Guy is going for here, but a lot of the references appear to be references to old video games and tabletop RPGs. Since I have extremely (and I mean extremely extremely) limited experience with those, most of these are just lost on me. I’m just not the audience for them I suppose. Still, Reality 37 has been presented very richly and it definitely lives and breathes as any Real setting.
We got some insights into the People’s Republic of the future in the last novel and we get that much more in this one too as Otto and the others travel through the Russian lands of the near-future and into China. Very enjoyable bits because of the social commentaries and all. We aren’t exposed to too much of the world politics, at least in so far as compared to what we had in the last novel but Guy still finds the right words to express the sights and sounds of all the places that the narrative travels to.
So yeah, job well done on that account.
The central themes of discussion that informed the larger narrative of Reality 36 are continued on well here. The answers to “can man and machine co-exist together” and “how different is a self-aware machine from man” are still not clear-cut. They shouldn’t be either because it really is a very big grey area. What I really liked in the novel was that one of the characters, a Class Six AI, comments on it to some degree towards the end when the climax is happening. As an in-universe comment it is extremely thoughtful and realistic. It would make for a great quote, if only it wasn’t a paragraph of dialogue! More discussions and themes like these are what I would love to read in more science-fiction novels. They make the reading experience really satisfying because you get something really thought-provoking.
The action scenes are handled nicely too. There is ample variety of those, whether they are one-on-one fights between cyborgs, clashes between two vastly intelligent and powerful AIs, animals/humans and monsters, or otherwise. Even the locations of these action scenes are great: a train, a vast battlefield, a temple (of sorts), airship battles, piratical action. Loved every bit of that stuff.
So would I recommend this novel? Yes, I most definitely would. It is a very different sort of SF novel, one that speaks to the reader on a whole lot of different levels and has something for everyone, just like its predecessor. It is worth picking up for a number of reasons and it will definitely broaden your reading horizons.
My rating for the novel: 8/10.