by Jay Caselberg
Review by James J. Walton
Jack Stein is a Psychic Investigator. He solves mysteries by gathering "impressions" from inanimate objects and then dreaming about the owners. Jack doesn't get much respect. A loner with very few friends, Jack wanders around in a daze, possibly psychotic, definitely sleep deprived.
When Jack gets a much-needed contract from a large corporation to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a group of employees, parts of the puzzle do not fit together snugly. His dreams are filled with strange faces and odd symbols and he gets little cooperation from the people who hired him. After a few chance encounters and information from unexpected sources, it soon becomes apparent to Jack that Something Does Not Add Up.
Stein leads the stereotypical literary PI lifestyle. His apartment is run down, his clothes are dirty, he abuses legal stimulants, and he is always behind on his rent.
The city where Jack lives is called The Locality. It is a vast, constantly changing structure built by intelligent nano-machines. The forward part of the Locality, New, is recreated daily. The slums literally are in the other end of town. The posterior part of the city, Old, consists of buildings where the nanosmachines are dead or dying and the maintenance programs no longer function. The farther one gets from New the cheaper the property. The Locality moves along the surface of the planet like a huge, hungry snake, devouring raw materials at the front, dropping decayed parts from the rear.
There is nothing new in Wyrmhole. The mystery isn't very deep and though the settings are exotic, with a few minor changes the story could take place in almost any time period. The requisite scenes take place on cue (abuse by bad guys warning him off the case, abuse by police wanting to pin a crime on someone, attempted seduction by a femme fatale) and Jack, despite all his alleged experience, wanders around dazed. The characters are one-dimensional, though serviceable and we are told rather than shown that one bad guy is Evil. The reader will solve much of the mystery before the PI does.
To be fair, Jack has a distraction: his newly acquired partner is an 11-yearold girl who, unfortunately, is wise and experienced far beyond her years.
Wyrmhole is Mr. Caselberg's first novel and a decent first effort. I found the book readable even when I was shaking my head at the ineptness of the main character. Hopefully Caselberg's future efforts will have a bit more depth and weight.
See Also Chris Ferrier's revier of Wyrmhole.
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