A Virtual Soul by Kevin Teixeira (1999)
NEVER have I felt more compelled to skim a 500-page science fiction story. This guy could teach a few things to George R. R. Martin about how to avoid story progression. It seemed like a likable premise – in the near future, genetically bred sub-humans (called Tubies because they are created in test tubes) are a separate race of submissive servants and a very competitive market because they only live seven years. One hyper-competitive business creates a virus that kills Tubies in hopes of destroying a Japanese company’s new, improved models (that live three times as long). The head of the corporation blackmails a young em-printer (humans able to connect via cable to Tubies and give them a basic personality) to escorting a beautiful pleasure Tubie to Japan. The young hero doesn’t know his passive companion is actually a human woman and the carrier of the deadly Tubie virus. He has to save himself, the woman, and the Tubies he feels responsible for.
Sounds like an exciting premise, right?
I tried to examine why I had so much trouble slogging through the story and have some theories. First of all, there are way too many characters. We even get points of view from the thugs transporting a military grade Tubie passing as a human. That’s a subplot that moves as slowly as the rest of the story. We get insights from the gardener, the Tubie store employee, the bad guys (too many), and countless other characters. Again, like George R. R. Martin, the writer likes to spread the story among several characters. But unlike Mr. Martin, these characters’ stories don’t move the story along much. There’s very little forward momentum from the actions of the supporting characters.
Why in the world wasn’t this edited into some semblance of a coherent plot? There’s a moral to the story – people are people, even when they’ve been created in the lab. Unfortunately, this message gets a little lost as we examine, in too much detail, corporate greed, man’s inhumanity to man, and advances in technology. A side effect of the virus is that the Tubies who survive wake up and realize they are as human as their masters and deserve similar rights and hopes.
By the time I reached the end and one of the companies won, I was exhausted. I think there’s a story here, but it got weighed down with too many characters, too much introspection by those many characters, and an over-complicated plot without an ending strong enough to warrant it.