The Demi-Monde: Winter begins a series that promises to be as amazing as anything we’ve read from Dan Simmons or Neal Stephenson, the two authors it most brings to mind to me. Set in a virtual world in the very near future, it combines dystopian science fiction with adventure to make a book nearly impossible to put down.
Be forewarned that this is only the first novel in the series, so don’t expect things to be wrapped up neatly, but the story is well worth waiting for the next installment, because in the meantime we get to meet an amazing set of characters and join them on a whirlwind of adventure and intrigue.
What is the Demi-Monde?
It is the most complex and immersive computer simulation ever created, with over 30,000 avatars, known as “dupes,” who think and act exactly like humans (except they require a certain intake of blood daily to survive, which they get from “Blood banks.”) Created by the military to provide a way to train soldiers to fight in unpredictable conditions, the world is designed to be in a state of constant warfare. It is divided into sectors which are ruled by exact duplicates of some of the world’s greatest leaders who were also psychopaths, including Nazis, brutal Civil War commanders, Robespierre, and master of black magic Aleister Crowley.
Everything starts to go terribly wrong when Norma,the President’s daughter is lured into the Demi_Monde and trapped there. The problem is that if a player dies in the Demi-Monde, that player also either dies or becomes a comatose vegetable in the real world. So 18-year-old jazz singer Ella Thomas is sent into the Demi-Monde to rescue Norma, because she happens to fit the appearance of a “dupe” that is already in place. But Ella soon learns that there is more at stake than even the life of the President’s daughter… the Demi-Monde has discovered a way to threaten the Real World as well.
Rees has written a wonderful book, full of amazing wordplay and fantastic plot twists. It is impossible to fully describe this book, but it is a unique and amazing work with characters who are at times almost Dickensian. There is humor, terror, adventure, thrills and nonstop action. Since the technology of this world is based on that available in the 1870s, there is even steampunk. It is a story in which three girls hold the fate of two worlds — one of which is ruled unequivocally by men — in their hands.
The Demi-Monde: Winter is highly recommended for any lover of science fiction, alternate history, dystopian novels, or steampunk.