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Geoff Ryman

PS Publishing

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 1-902-88049-8

Publication Date: 10-01-2002

67 Pages; $40.00

Date Reviewed: 03-11-03 

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003



Science Fiction

The young see themselves as eternally young. Long nights of dancing, clubbing and DJ's will never end. The young will never end up in an assisted-living facility. Geoff Ryman thinks this might not be the case, but from the back cover photo, it's clear he's old enough to hold a grudge against those younger. In 'V. A. O.' Ryman has a ball aging the eternally young, dropping the dancers into high-tech wheelchairs and convalescent care bills bigger than many might care to imagine possible. If anything, Ryman goes easy on the billing aspect. But he's clearly having a ball in this delightful novella and so will readers. It's an absolute hoot, dead-on accurate, savagely funny, oddly touching, full of violence and vicious, soul-satisfying revenge.

'V. A. O' is an acronym for Victim Activated Ordnance, and it's the latest in protection for the wealth, the aged and sometimes even the innocent. Brewster is a one-time hacker who keeps his place in The Happy Farm with an on-going scam. He's not alone. But when an aged vigilante starts striking back at the populace, the heat gets turned up on the folks in The Happy Farm. Brewster and his crew may have to do something about it.

Ryman gets an intriguing mystery going and compliments it with witty social and satirical observations. Brewster is a wonderful character, one this reader would definitely like to spend time with again. Maybe it's just an age thing, but I don't think so. I think Ryman is an excellent writer. There's lots to laugh at and with in 'V. A. O.'. For such a short entry in this series, it's really full of interesting speculation and intriguing extrapolation.

Like all good authors, however, Ryman really shines because it's clear that he's as cuckoo about his characters as any reader who picks up the book will be. It's not that he gives them, say, extra lives or magic powers. Rather, his ruthless examination of youth in decay is so true that the readers can't help but be charmed by the thoughts of this old rogue. Some people never grow up. Readers of 'V. A. O' won't want to, and not just because of the ravages of age. No, when you read 'V. A. O.' you'll understand that one's age is neither a particle nor a wave. It's in constant flux. Opposites exist in the same system simultaneously. Laugh, cry, live, die -- you may still have a few tricks left even if you're completely gaga.