SCI FICTION, July 07, 2004

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"Leviathan Wept" by Daniel Abraham

"Leviathan Wept" by Daniel Abraham is a classic cyberpunk tale complete with advanced wetware tech that links agents and scientists mind to mind, terroristic warfare, and a newly sentient system network.  The main deviation from the cyberpunk standard is that the focal battling culture is Middle Eastern rather than Far Eastern, uncomfortably relevant for our times.
Initially, I had a difficult time being drawn into Abraham's narrative, due mostly to the Herculean struggle of keeping the members of Renz's five-person, special ops unit apart.  They are linked to each other's consciousness'.  As such, their communication, their very thoughts lack a distinctive voice or a sense of individuality.  Then I realized that, as a unit, their personalities are purposefully diminished.  They become their cell–one functional unit comprised of five minds acting in perfect, deadly unison, a recurring theme in "Leviathan Wept."
Later, Abraham displays his adroit characterization skills when Renz goes from linked team member to distressed individual when confronting his wife, Anna's, condition.  She is suffering and dying from a sort of sophisticated Lupus, a disease whereupon her own immune system attacks her body's healthy tissue under the misconception that it is a hostile invasion.  We see Renz as a man struggling to come to grips with grief and anguished helplessness.
Anna's disease is a metaphor for the deadly maneuvers that Renz and his cell, and countless other agents, conduct as part of their duty to country and government.  In the end, the question becomes: Is the perpetual conflict a war in heaven waged by macro consciousnesses, or is it the disease of a single, sick organism? For, "With a disease you try to get better. With a war, you just want to win."
Typical of the milieu, "Leviathan Wept" is darkly depressing throughout and leaves the reader with a lingering sense of hopelessness.  Nevertheless, Abraham's deft prose and sophisticated storytelling make for an interesting and thoughtful read.