Title: The Forever Watch
Author: David Ramirez
ISBN 13: 9781250033819
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publisher’s Blurb: The truth is only the beginning. When a man is murdered on the Noah, a city-sized spaceship that is half-way through an eight-hundred-year voyage to another planet, his body is so ruined that his identity must be established from DNA evidence. Within hours, however, all trace of the crime is swept away, hidden as though it never happened – a strange occurrence in a world where deeds, and even thoughts, cannot be kept secret. Hana Dempsey, a mid-level bureaucrat who has been genetically modified to use the Noah’s telepathic internet, begins to investigate. Her search for the truth will uncover the impossible: a serial killer who has been operating on board for a lifetime, if not longer. And behind the killer lies a conspiracy centuries in the making…
There is a lot going on in this book. So much it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on. There’s enough in this book for at least two books, if not more.
First, there’s the story of Noah, the multi-generational space ship headed for humanity’s new home, Canaan. No one’s quite sure what happened to Earth which required this alien spaceship capable of holding an entire metropolis, to go on a mission lasting 800 years. All anyone of the current citizens on Noah is this has always been home.
Then, is there a serial killer loose? Bodies which look like they’ve been ripped apart are appearing. And people are disappearing , their records marked as “retired,” at a high rate.
There’s a love story between the “mission critical” Hana Dempsey and cop Leonard Barrens. Dempsey is gifted in many areas, including as a hacker. Barrens is portrayed as somewhat more brutish but capable of great softness for Dempsey. They work together to figure out what’s going on with the possible serial killer. They also work together well as a loving couple, despite the snobbery of Hana’s upper class friends.
And the conspiracy story concerning the children born aboard the Noah. Women are put into a nine-month coma and never see their children. At the beginning of The Forever Watch, Hana has just come out of her coma. What happens to those children is not for the squeamish, their hellish destiny is better left unknown.
Ramirez introduces an overload of technology and psychic abilities. We’re talking neural implants, heads up display, instantaneous communication, and entire cities built psychically out of a material called plastech.
And this is where I got lost. Ramirez has been so careful with his world building, thinking through every detail and going on ad nauseum about how the tech works. There’s so much information and it gets bewildering after a few pages. And then it keeps going on and on.
This is one of my main complaints about sf/f worlds, there’s just too much detail. If it’s accepted in an author’s world this stuff works, that’s all that’s needed. Authors don’t need to convince the readers, we’re happy to go along for the ride. That many pages shouldn’t be spent on explanations and details unless they are absolutely required to move the story forward. Most of the time, it’s not. (N. K. Jemisin is the best I’ve read recently in giving the reader just enough detail to move the story without getting bogged down.)
The horrifying revelations are nearly unimaginable. Ramirez obviously imagined them, I didn’t see a lot of them coming. Except for the “huh, what do you know,? the founders were right all along.” I figured that was coming, realized that what was happening was cyclical, leading to a moral conundrum for the survivors who find themselves in charge.
The Forever Watch is not a bad read, but it’s not exceptional either. There’s so much potential for great exploration of any of the plot lines, which makes the book feel incomplete.