The final draft of this novel was completed in late September 2019. The first reported outbreak of the coronavirus in the Wuhan Province of mainland China occurred three months later, on 31 December 2019.Proxy, Author’s Note
And so goes the author’s note readers will find at the beginning of Gary Gibson’s Proxy. A pandemic—the third in the years leading to the novel’s events—has ravaged the world, taking millions of lives, not unlike the coronavirus. It’s difficult to read Proxy without the thought of COVID-19 and the spectre that lingers over the world. Depending on how the virus has affected you and your loved ones, you may want to take that as your warning about the book’s subject matter and its potential to trigger you. If you’re able to read on, it’s a crazy coincidence that Proxy was written in the months leading to the outbreak, but it’s not difficult to imagine the coronavirus being the first of the three pandemics leading to the near future Gibson presents.
Proxy isn’t a novel about a pandemic, it’s about a future world where a succession of pandemics has much of the world living in fear. One where corporations wield an ever-increasing amount of power, and one where a new technology named Proxy exists in the world, used by people to transplant their consciousness into other people’s bodies, hijacking them for their own use. The future Gibson presents in Proxy is a frightening one, but also plausible, should we ever make the technological discoveries that led to this tale. Which makes Proxy’s world even more frightening, really.
Throughout Proxy’s 386 paperback pages (340 in hardcover, thanks to a larger page size, or an estimated 396 page swipes on Kindle), the author presents a noir cyberpunk world where former police officer/current private investigator Ray Thomas follows the trail of the missing Stacy. As he follows the trail, he ends up deep in the world of these so-called proxies. Fans of cyberpunk stories and speculative fiction, or noir or detective stories will love the world Gibson has created, the styling of the story, and its engrossing plot. Proxy hits all the hallmarks of its genres, and does so in a way that keeps the reader enthralled.
The book’s setting, a near-future version of London, is evocative, and from the initial train ride at the beginning of the book, Gibson treats the reader to a living, breathing world. This is a grimy world that feels lived in by its many residents, and the narrative transports the reader there. The city is a character of its own, and although I’ve never been to London, it feels like Gibson knows the city intimately. As I read Proxy, I felt like I was part of this world, being able to see, hear and smell it all.
A large part of me feeling like I was part of the world was thanks to the characters who guided me through it. Proxy features no less than seven point of view characters: the aforementioned Ray and Stacy; scientist Isaac; Raphael, David and Amy, with familial connections to Stacy; and Elijah, a Proxy dealer. It’s a sizable number of characters to follow, each with their own threads that converge to form the overall narrative. With a variety of other characters throughout the novel, it’s a lot to keep track of: Proxy rewards a close reading.
With the number of characters—point of view and otherwise—it is a testament to the author’s writing that they are all so memorable. Ray may be the book’s protagonist, but each of these characters are wonderfully written. All the point of view characters are rich enough that they could have been the book’s protagonist, or even its sole point of view character, and the majority of other characters would have been interesting, had their point of view been shared.
The dialogue throughout Proxy is strong, with each character having a strong voice. They all sound unique from each other, and their differing characteristics complement each other, and add depth to the world. Each character sounds true to themselves, and they do so while also sounding true not only to Proxy’s world but also to its noir trappings.
As great as the dialogue is, it is Proxy’s prose that does the heavy lifting. It realises the novel’s grimy world to perfection. Not only is it clear, concise, and easy to follow, it also sets the book’s atmosphere and doesn’t let up until the very end. The descriptions of the world and its characters are thoroughly engaging, and it presents the sci-fi technology in a way that feels natural: as an extension of the world without drawing away from the story. Gibson’s prose ties it all together, while still feeling like a detective noir at its core.
At the heart of any detective noir story is its mystery. If you’ve read my review of Echogenesis from a couple of days ago (if you haven’t, fear not; just click this link to read my thoughts about it), you may recall how much I enjoyed its mystery elements. With Proxy, the mystery is once again beautifully told, unfurling steadily over the course of the story. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and the threads coalesce beautifully as it reaches its conclusion.
Proxy is a wonderful science fiction story with a great hook about the hijacking of people’s bodies, presented in a frighteningly realistic manner. But more than that, it is a great mystery tale that will have the reader eagerly turning the page. With a deep world and a large, perfectly balanced cast of interesting characters, it comes together in a spectacular whole
Just then, Raphael heard a rustle of leaves and looked up, seeing a silhouetted shape moving amidst the branches high overhead. The shape, black against black, dropped onto the grass a few meters in front of him.
The gorilla raised itself up on two legs, its huge barrel chest making Raohael think of old monster movies. Only now that he was so close to the beast could he see how enormous it was—and how utterly terrifying.
Moonlight glinted from its fangs, the pale whites of its eyes showing as it peered at him with little more than passing curiosity.Proxy, Chapter Twelve
Proxy was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Proxy is available in physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon), and Kindle (exclusive to Amazon).
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