Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

tomorrowandtomorrowTomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch (Putnam, July 10th, 2014)-Tomorrow and Tomorrow is an odd novel (this isn’t a bad thing), but if you like your murder mystery with an SF, future twist, with a very strong shot of noir, then you really can’t go wrong here. Tomorrow and Tomorrow takes place 10 years after a blast that decimated Pittsburgh, and just about everywhere you go, there are memorials of Pittsburgh survivors ranging from the glossy to the makeshift, gatherings of the dead in pen and ink or etched in stone. We’re in the mid to late-ish 2000s at this point, so there’s quite a bit of future tech on display, including the AdWare that people have wired directly into their brains, providing a constant stream of information, which, being a child of the 80s, I would find crazymaking, but in this narrative, it’s the norm. Retinal cameras, VR beyond your wildest imagination, you name it-it’s what makes up the basis of this book.

John Dominic Blaxton is a Pittsburgh survivor, out of town during the blast, a cruel twist of fate that left him unscathed and his pregnant wife dead. He hasn’t gotten over Theresa, and he’s obsessed with spending time with her in the Archive, a virtual reality reconstruction of Pittsburgh before the blast. Theresa is only a construct, but it’s all he has, and he’ll do anything to hold on to it. For now, he’s working for a firm that investigates deaths for insurance companies, and by using the Archive, they can glean facts about these cold cases, hopefully providing closure, or a payout, for the victims’ families. Dominic is good at his job, but he’s also an addict, and after a particularly bad round of the drug brown sugar, he’s forcibly detoxed and fired from his job. He also finds out that his psychiatric care has been transferred to another therapist, who goes by the name of Timothy, and as it happens, he has a job offer for Dominic. Waverly, a very rich, very powerful man wants Dominic to find his daughter , and ethereal beauty named Albion, for him. She was killed in the Pittsburgh blast, but she’s being systematically erased from the Archive and Waverly wants to know who’s behind it. Soon Dominic is immersed in the Archive, using everything in his arsenal to track down even a small trace of Albion, but as he searches, he starts to make other connections that lead him back to the murder of a woman named Hannah, the last case he worked for his former firm, that he never wrapped up. He’s also being warned off the search for Albion within the Archive, but why? VR and reality soon start to blur for Dominic as pressure mounts to find Albion and prevent a tragedy that might hit him very close to home. But soon, more people start dying by a sadistic killer’s hand, and it seems to all lead back to his investigation.

Have you been feeling like you’re stagnating a bit in your reading? Tomorrow and Tomorrow will yank you out of that reading rut. This is such a weird book, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s an exceedingly clever mashup of murder mystery and future noir with an intensely sympathetic hero at its core. Suicide is never explicitly mentioned, but I always felt that Dominic was thisclose to it, if he wasn’t so mired in the day to day of just existing without his wife. He has people that care for him, though. In fact, his cousin Gav, so flamboyant in his work and life of girls and parties, is rock solid and loyal in his support of Dominic, even as he urges him to find a way to move on from Theresa’s death. Dominic is extremely empathetic when it comes to the deaths of the people he researches, perhaps because he couldn’t save his wife and this is a way that he can “save” others, and tends to wear his melancholy like a hair shirt.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow takes place in a future that terrifies me, honestly: constant bombardment of sex and violence (there’s a show called Crime Scene Superstar), and people are encouraged to rate a victim’s fuckability based on crime scene photographs. Yuck. Also, public executions (with a game show flavor) by the super charming (no sarcasm there at all) President Meecham, who, frankly comes off as a dragon lady in couture. So, some not so subtle commentary on the more base instincts of the human race, consumerism, and tech overload (with near constant surveillance), but this all just serves to highlight Dominic’s humanity, and compassion. The staccato style of Sweterlitsch’s prose enhances the immediacy of the story and really does enhance that noir feel that I mentioned earlier. When I started the book, I was looking for something unique and different, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow more than fit the bill. So many times, I thought I knew where this story was going, and every time, I was wrong, but was more than satisfied with the resolution. This is like True Detective, Philip K Dick, and Silence of the Lambs wrapped up in the author’s very own, unique package. When’s the next book?

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