fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Rod Rees Demi-Monde WinterThe Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees

One more acronym and murder will be done.

To train soldiers for different high-stress combat scenarios, the U.S. military has developed a virtual reality game called The Demi-Monde. The game world is divided into different sections with boundaries like spokes on a wheel. These adjacent sections are overpopulated and made up of different mixtures of races and cultures that should clash and create wars. In addition, scientists have used the DNA of real historical people to create “Dupes” (duplicates) of actual historical tyrants and other bad guys to populate the Demi-Monde with the kinds of people who are likely to initiate conflicts. These dupes think they are real people and that the people who come in from the real world are “Daemons.” To make it as realistic as possible, when U.S. soldiers are in training in the Demi-Monde, their brains are completely immersed — they are not aware that they’re only playing a game. However, this leaves their consciousness separated from their bodies so that if they are killed in the game, they slip into a vegetative state in real life.

When Norma Williams, the U.S. President’s daughter, is kidnapped and held hostage in the Demi-Monde, the government must figure out how to rescue her. They hire Ella Thomas, a black jazz singer, to go into the game and bring Norma out.

The Demi-Monde: Winter has an entertaining premise and I’ve been looking forward to reading it since I heard about it more than a year ago. Unfortunately, I could not finish it. I worked on it for 6 weeks and I had to keep starting over. It was the only print book I was reading at the time and I dreaded picking it up — I just couldn’t get into it. One problem is that the writing is not engaging; it is merely utilitarian and, though it often attempts to be witty, it usually doesn’t succeed. The second problem is that there is a lot of information about the world dumped on the reader at the beginning, so the plot takes a long time to wind up.

The biggest problem, though, the one I couldn’t get past, was the outrageous beliefs of the Demi-Mondians and the way these are presented. All of their ideas (mostly radical racism and sexism) are ideas we’ve heard before, which makes sense because the people who tend to rise to the top in the Demi-Monde are the Earth’s former tyrants, but their beliefs are conveyed in such a ham-fisted manner that, lacking any subtlety, they become cartoonish. What makes them even more laughable (except that I wasn’t laughing, I was wincing) is the way they’re explained in scholarly quotes at the beginning of each chapter:

HerEticalism is a Covenite religion based on female supremacy and the subjugation of men. Rabidly misandric in nature, the HerEtical belief is that Demi-Monde-wide peace and prosperity — an unfeasibly idyllic outcome given the tag “MostBien” — will only be realized when men (”nonfemmes” in Coven-speak) accept a subordinate position within society. HerEticalism has a more aggressive sister religion known as Suffer-O-Gettism (a contraction of Make-Men-Suffer-O-Gettism) which espouses violence as the only means of bringing change in the Demi-Monde. Suffer-O-Gettes are of the opinion that the removal of the male of the species from the breeding cycle is a vital concomitant to the securing of MostBien. Such are the unnatural and obscene sexual activities of HerEticals that they are lampooned throughout the Demi-Monde as “LessBiens.”

These kinds of awful puns (and equally ridiculous acronyms) gallop unbridled through the entire novel. MALEvolent, HimPerialism, nanoBites, pawnography, PsyChick (a cute female who assists a psychic during his presentations), Terror Incognita, ThawsDay, UnFunDaMentalism, woeMen, neoFights… If you’re into masochism, you can read the official dictionary of Demi-Monde slang.

This nearly drove me insane. Despite its dull writing style, I was interested in the plot of The Demi-Monde: Winter, but it’s kind of hard to get through it when you’re rolling your eyes during every line of text and then have to keep finding your place again. I finally quit halfway through.

The Demi-monde — (2011-2014) Publisher: The Demi-Monde is the most advanced simulation ever devised. Thirty million people ruled by history’s cruellest tyrants, locked in eternal civil conflict. The intention: to create the closest thing to Hell, and prepare soldiers for the nightmarish environment of war. But something has gone badly wrong. Reinhard Heydrich — or at least a simulacrum resembling the Nazi monster — has kidnapped the President’s daughter from the Real-World and concealed her within the Demi-Monde, making it impossible for the program to be switched off. This achieved, he has cut off all contact with reality. It falls to Ella Thomas, a young jazz singer, to infiltrate Heydrich’s virtual domain and rescue the missing girl. But once inside she will discover that everything in the Demi-Monde is not as it seems, and that the Real-World may be in more danger than everyone outside realises… The Demi-Monde: Winter introduces readers to one of the most believable, almost extravagantly detailed worlds ever created, where history’s most fascinating figures and cruelest tyrants rub shoulders with a rich cast of characters. In a fast-paced, action-packed narrative Rod Rees manages to explore some of life’s deepest dilemmas, and suffuses the story throughout with wit and humour.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.