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The Shadow Wars
aka The Demi-Monde: Spring
by Rod Rees
William Morrow, $14.99, 550pp
Release Date: February 19, 2013
When last we left the cyber-world of the Demi-Monde - part data bank, part military training program, part alternate reality, part secret weapon of a group intent on world domination - an avatar of Aleister Crowley had succeeded in replacing Norma Williams, the daughter of president of the United States, a sex and drugs and tattoo junkie who’d gotten herself lost in the Demi-Monde, with the psychotic Aaliz Heydrich. Passing as a revived, rescued, and repentant Norma, Aaliz makes herself the most popular icon in the world and starts a new religion based on her ability to “cure” addicts through faith and miracles. (Wonderful what can be done with nanotech, chemistry, and the power of suggestion.)

Meanwhile, in the Demi-Monde, power plays by Lavrentii Beria, Robespierre, the Marquis de Sade, and Torquemada are causing turmoil. Still trapped in this world, Norma is slowly, painfully, evolving into a heroine as she decides that some things must be opposed.

Ella Thomas, the young agent originally sent into the Demi-Monde to rescue Norma, is wreaking havoc with the carefully laid plans and machinations of the men in power. Consequently, she is being hailed by the denizens as Lady Immanual, a savior and messiah. The only person more determined to eliminate her than the aforementioned villains of history is the real-world man who sent her there, Septimus Bole. In the grips of his demon, the Grigori spirit that renders him one of the Dark Charismatics of the world, Bole is preparing the reshape reality, and he needs to neutralize the annoyingly resourceful Ella as quickly as possible. And that may entail sending another person into the Demi-Monde, someone Ella would trust implicitly….

Over the course of the novel, a number of central avatar characters are reduced to code and erased from play. You may go, “Awwwww!” when a favorite hero or bad guy gets taken out, but this makes room for the second tier characters to come into their own.

This series is the Snow Crash of this decade, a mind-blowing romp through cyber space with hilarious, punnish denominations for the many socio-political organizations and technological toys deployed, a Wonderland that reflects –or anticipates – our realities. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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