Flashback by Dan Simmons
It is the near future. The United States is a mere shadow of her former self. Political correctness has backfired (in the minds of many) altering the landscape in a number of ways. Government programs which seemed ideal have bankrupted the government. The economy is in the toilet and it’s no longer safe for individuals to cross state lines. Millions of Americans dream of a better day and re-live the good old days through Flashback: a cheap, highly addictive drug which allows users to re-live the experiences they want to the most.
Former Detective and current Flashback addict Nick Bottom just wants to spend his time re-living his past so he can spend time with his dead wife. Her death, and the availability of Flashback, has made him a shell of his former self. He lost his job with the Denver P.D. and shipped his son off to Los Angeles to live with his father-in-law. Now Nick is hired to solve the six year old murder of a Japanese diplomat’s son. A case he couldn’t solve when he was a cop – but he needs money to feed his addiction so he’s willing to go through the motions. Who killed the young Nakamura? And how did America get so darn messed up?
The audiobook uses three voices to tell the story. The primary narrator is Nick Bottom, but his son and father-in-law also take turns narrating. This is probably one of the bleakest views of the future I’ve read and that is compared to end of the world zombie novels. I think what’s so scary is how you could see a turn like this possibly happening in the not so distant future if everything suddenly goes wrong. While it is dark and depressing there are moments of funny banter and the voice narration is really well done. The voice of Sato, the bodyguard of the elder Nakamura who accompanies Nick on his investigations, is quite over the top and I kept picturing Oddjob from Goldfinger in my head. At one point he and Nick are chatting and Sato claims that the reference reminds him of the “skiffy” movies and novels that Americans enjoy. Nick has Sato spell the word: S-C-I-F-I. Nick never corrects him and many things are “skiffy” throughout the book.