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Frank Schätzing
Jo Fletcher / Quercus
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-623-65044-5
Publication Date: 11-05-2013
1240 Pages; $29.95
Date Reviewed: 12-09-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  Science Fiction  Mystery  General Fiction

After 2006's 'The Swarm,' '[limit]' is the second novel by German bestseller Frank Schätzing to make it to the US. When you pick it up, you might be tempted to think it's his second, third, fourth and fifth. At 1,240 pages it is as long as four average novels. Given that it's a single story — with many strands, but nonetheless, one throughline — we can be glad that it wasn't chopped up and published as a series.

'[limit]' proves to be a pretty good buy for the price. Schätzing offers readers a sweater's worth of ripping yarns, artfully woven, translated by a team of three. Given the diverse hands in the mix, more like a movie than a novel, it hangs together well because Schätzing's strong vision is matched by his storytelling skills. '[limit]' is the sort of book for readers who like to leave this world behind, both in subject and in the immersive level of the reading experience.

Julian Orley has brains and money and in 2025, he's used both to get a space elevator to the moon, where he's planning to open a hotel. But he's about more than space tourism. Using the space elevator to transport Helium 3 from the Moon to the Earth will revolutionize energy, and not make him a lot of friends in the process. Owen Jericho is a detective looking into a seemingly unrelated matter on Earth. But with the Earth actually connected to the moon, more connections are in the mix. The future proves to be hazardous even to those with lots of smarts and even more money.

Suffice it to say that '[limit]' is a book for people who like big, complicated books. That said, Schätzing handles the form well. He knows when to immerse you in detail and when to drop in a huge, tension-inducing scene of action. There are lots of characters in '[limit],' enough to fill up a seven-page list in the back of the book. But credit Schätzing with the wisdom to orchestrate all of this with the grace and power required to keep your interest and satisfy the questions that often go unanswered. The plot is exciting and well-designed for the length of the book.

Schätzing may have a huge cast, but the core characters are strong and nicely nuanced. They're not untarnished heroes; Schätzing gives readers a slightly bitter brew here, and the book is the better for it. Orley and Jericho play nicely off of one another in terms of scope and power, while the author's eye for keeping the book just slightly out of balance gives the supporting cast — and it really does feel like a movie cast — a textured and realistic feel. We may not want to plan our lives around the folks we meet in this book, but they certainly make for a compelling story.

'[limit]' is a great spin on the Space Opera genre, offering lots of outer space action and thought experiments, while eschewing fantastic invention for a very restrained vision of the future. Even as it looks forward to things to come, it's sort of a throwback, in the best possible way. Given the enormity of what's on offer, it can authentically claim that you will be living in the future by the time you finish reading the book. '[limit]' is at once engagingly familiar and excitingly odd. The future, like the past, is (from) another country.

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