David Ramirez’s debut novel is filled with a smorgasbord of science fiction ideas - a generation ship, a simulated world, psionics, aliens, nanobots and even an emerging artificial intelligence. Cramming all of these concepts into a single novel could be overwhelming and confusing, but The Forever Watch manages to pull it off with a flourish.
Initially it reads as a murder mystery set in a science fictional world, but as the story progresses and the elements start to fall into place it grows in complexity. Nothing is as it seems. In their hunt for a killer the main protagonists, Hana and Leon, discover that the utopian society on board the Noah is only a husk of normalcy build upon secrets and lies.
“Our perfect little world maintained by secrets and a willing acceptance that those above us know better.” (p 161)
Going into detail about the secrets they uncover would spoil the entire experience. Suffice it to say that The Forever Watch is unpredictable, filled with stunning twists and revelations that take the story into unexpected directions. The character’s allegiances and convictions are mutable, they shift and change as they react to the information they uncover. Their choices are complex with terrifying consequences.
All the different elements at play in the story are brought together in a brilliant finale that’s heartbreaking and yet retains a sense of hope. You couldn’t ask for a better conclusion and it makes persevering through the rough spots well worth the effort.
The Forever Watch isn’t without its faults. I found the pacing somewhat uneven, but once the action picked up I was completely drawn into the world. There are some sex scenes that felt overdone and unnecessary and for some reason Hana referring to “her man” on multiple occasions didn’t feel quite true to her strong, independent character.
The Forever Watch is a complex, unpredictable read overflowing with ideas and new twists on familiar tropes. The characters are well-fleshed out, the world-building is top notch, there’s enough science for hard SF fans, but it’s the stunning finale that will blow you away. It turns out some secrets are worth protecting... Recommended!
The Rating: 7/10 (Very good)
Thanks to Chabi from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.