Monday, September 8, 2008

Review of Archangel Protocol

Archangel Protocol
is the first book in the AngelLINK series by Lyda Morehouse (who also writes the Garnet Lacey series under the name Tate Hallaway). This book is followed by Fallen Host, Messiah Node, and Apocalypse Array, which are supposed to work as stand-alone novels even though they are set in the same universe as the first book. Unfortunately, the books in this series are out of print, although new copies can be found at Dreamhaven (which is where I got my own signed copy of the first book at regular price). Lyda Morehouse is currently writing an AngelLINK prequel called Resurrection Code.

Just after the midway point of the 21st century, the destruction produced by the terrible Medusa bomb led to the official movement of America from a democracy to a theocracy. In a world with drive-through churches in which it is a crime not to belong to some sort of organized religion, the presidential candidates are Rabbi-Senator Grey and Reverend-Senator Letourneau, who is claiming to be the second coming of Christ. These claims appear to be justified with the appearance of the LINK-angels, awe-inspiring angelic beings who appear within the cybernetic virtual reality almost everyone is connected to. Since the LINK-angels cause a strong emotional response when sighted--something that is impossible to do through technology--it is believed that they are a miraculous sign from God.

Deidre McMannus went from being a successful detective to a struggling private eye after her investigative partner Daniel publicly murders the Pope. For the offense of her association with Daniel, Deidre is excommunicated from the Catholic church and disconnected from the LINK, meaning it is hard for her to find work and access to credits. While undergoing a particularly bad day due to the loss of a client, Deidre is visited by a drop-dead gorgeous cop in jeans and black leather by the name of Michael Angelucci. Michael would like to enlist Deidre's aid in exposing the would-be messiah Letourneau and his supportive LINK-angels as a fraud. In return, he promises to give Deidre access to the addictive LINK.

Archangel Protocol is hard to define since it incorporates a diverse blend of genres - I suppose you could call it a cyberpunk mystery romance socio-religious/political adventure. This is part of what made the book stand out to me since anytime I've tried reading cyberpunk before, it has bored me. I tried to read Snow Crash since it was supposed to be a fantastic cyberpunk book and gave up eventually. I struggled through Neuromancer and came away from it with the feeling that it was the longest 200 pages I have ever read. These books were all about the tech and the cool hacker characters that I had no attachment whatsoever to. Yet Archangel Protocol had the cyberpunk feel and the technology as a core component of the story without compromising characters or plot. In addition to this, it had a plausible future scenario containing interesting prospects about the complete removal of the separation of politics and state.

Deidre is a sympathetic character - a social pariah because of a crime she did not commit with a sense of left-over Catholic guilt preventing her from simply joining another religion just to become a part of the real world once again. She even finds some comfort in the preacher who rants outside her window every day since "at least someone thinks I'm worth saving." Other characters are not as fleshed out as Deidre, but I found them likable in spite of not feeling they were particularly deep. Michael seems like a typical nice guy, but I did find his brother Morningstar intriguing when he did show up.

This book is rather fast-paced and getting involved in the story was effortless. It was one of those books that captured my attention in the first chapter and held it all the way to the end, making it very difficult to put down.

The story is told from the first person perspective of Deidre and the end of each chapter has a newspaper article or other relevant interludes such as political interviews or religious essays. Some of these were serious, others were amusing, but they all added to the story being told and did not feel out of place.

The main complaints I have about this book is that some of the romance did seem a bit cheesy (which is hardly unusual) and although I enjoyed Deidre's character she did seem to be a bit slow at times. I suppose if such unusual events happened to me, I'd be a bit hesitant to believe it as well, but she had all the pieces of the puzzle at times but later would seem to forget what she had known just a little while ago.

Archangel Protocol is a very enjoyable novel combining a fast-paced plot, a fairly well-developed main character, some romance, religious themes, and a fun mystery.



Anonymous said...


Didn't know about the prequel. That's great news for Morehouse. And us. I hope you get to read the rest of the books in the series, as they only get better. In Fallen Host, Morningstar becomes a main character, and his POV was definitely very enjoyable.

I also found Snow Crash very overrated. The main idea of a killer cybervirus was already used by C.S. Friedman in This Alien Shore, only Shore has tons more other awesome stuff.

Thea said...

Great revie--I'm intrigued. The blend of religous and political issues has definitely piqued my interest! I'll have to pick up a copy of this one.

And, as a fellow reader who really struggled with Neuromancer, I'm excited to see that you enjoyed this book :)

Kristen said...

Nephtis -

I saw on Lyda's FAQs on her site that a small press picked up the prequel. It's supposed to be about Mouse and his page so it should be interesting. Here's the link if you wanted to read more: FAQs

I definitely look forward to reading the rest, especially the one with Morningstar as a main character. I've been checking Dreamhaven every day to see if they've set up their online inventory again after moving.

Everyone told me Snow Crash was wonderful and I only got about halfway through before I gave up (partially because the friend who lent me the book wanted it back so she could lend it to someone else). I never felt sorry about not finishing it, though. This Alien Shore is on my wishlist and I enjoyed the one book I've read by Friedman so that is one I'll have to get at some point.

Thea -

Neuromancer was a rough one to get through. I just couldn't care about what happened to anyone in that book. I hope you get to read Archangel Protocol - it was a much easier book to enjoy than Neuromancer.

lydamorehouse said...

I'm a year late discovering this, but, hey! Wow! What a great review. I feel honored.

I'm probably in the minority in that I loved both SNOW CRASH and NEUROMANCER (though I liked MONA LISA OVERDRIVE by Gibson way better), but I did like them less than the cyberpunk by women.

Have you tried TROUBLE AND HER FRIENDS (Melissa Scott) or anything by Whilemena (sp?) Baird? (Her first one might be CRASHCOURSE.) I also loved Pat Cadigan's SYNNERS... though I read everything by Cadigan, she's the queen of cyberpunk, after all.

Thanks again for the review. It made my day!

Kristen said...

Hi Lyda! Thanks for stopping by. I loved Archangel Protocol and it ended up on my top 10 favorites books read in 2008 list.

Thanks for the recommendations! I have not read any of the cyberpunk books by women you mentioned but I will definitely look them up. It would be nice to find more I liked; I feel kind of weird about not liking Neuromancer and Snow Crash since computer programmers are supposed to stand in awe of them. ;)

Anonymous said...

Let me share a little secret. Chris Moriarty has an awesome site, which I actually discovered even prior to her publishing her first book. There's a few interesting essays on the definitions of hard sf or cyberpunk. However, I draw your attention to the Chickpunk section. At the end of the essay there's a name of lists, and this been my secret source of ideas.

Catherine Asaro
Elizabeth Bear *
Pat Cadigan
Julie Czerneda *
Kelley Eskridge
Nicola Griffith
Kathleen Ann Goonan *
Anne Harris *
Tanya Huff *
Gwyneth Jones *
Kay Kenyon *
Nancy Kress
Karin Lowachee *
Lisa Mason *
Louise Marley
Susan R. Matthews *
Maureen F. McHugh *
Laura J. Mixon
Elizabeth Moon
Lyda Morehouse *
Pat Murphy
Severna Park *
Marge Piercy
Justina Robson
Melissa Scott
Kristine Smith

Each asterisk is an author I've discovered either mainly or entirely (like in the case of Lyda Morehouse) due to this list. The rest of unfamiliar names are on my shelves.

Kristen said...

Nephtis - Thanks for sharing your secret! I hadn't been to Chris Moriarty's site before. The authors I have read that are on that list are all ones I really enjoyed so I'll definitely have to check out some of the others (I already have books by Kay Kenyon and Maureen McHugh on my shelf to read). Are there any you highly recommend from that list?

Nephtis said...

The highly recommend (of the ones that I presume you haven't read yet):

Maureen F. McHugh - China Mountain Zhang is her best. I believe you already have Nekropolis; it's somewhat representative, being weird and melancholy and particularly effective if one has read Lee's Silver Metal Lover, but not her best. It ends suddently and abruptly, and while it's an ending, it leaves one perturbed and not satisfied. Still, McHugh is on my "buy everything" list.

Karin Lowachee - she's a Canadian author, born in Colombia. Warchild, Burndive and Cagebird are all out of print, but quite worth getting. Cagebird in particular really impressed me. Like Sarah Monette, she writes from the POV of male characters and doesn't shy away from trauma or violence, and is good at depicting male-male relationships.

I have a definite preference for books that feature female protagonists, so for me to recommend a book from a male POV means it must be good.

Nicola Griffith - Slow River is one of my all-time favs. Dylanfanatic read it recently and described it as "story of a beaten and battered girl..." - that was shocking, because I wouldn't think of Lore as "beaten and battered" at all.

Those are my top recommendations. If you were interested in reading more science fiction (actually, all 3 above are scifi, but only as the setting, they are mainly character-driven), you could check out Tanya Huff (she also writes urban fantasy and regular fantasy, but I've only read the Heart of Valor series and they are very enjoyable military scifi, which is rare and valuable), Severna Park (her books, especially The Annunciate are weird and ODD, I just wanted to read more of her), Justina Robson (now, she writes hard scifi, can be dense, I haven't read much of her yet).

Kristen said...

Nephtis - Thanks for the recommendations! You are right; I do have Nekropolis already. And I just finished Lee's The Silver Metal Lover last night.

Karin Lowachee is on my want to read list, but I haven't actually found anything by her since her books are out of print. That's too bad; I'd like to read them.

I'll have to add Slow River to the wishlist. Severna Park is a new name to me; I'll have to look her up too. After you mentioned Tanya Huff's Heart of Valor series, I did get the omnibus edition of the first two books. I read the first page in the bookstore and I liked what I read. What would you recommend reading by Justina Robson?