Michael Patrick Hicks’ novel Convergence had me at the first sentence: “Murder is easy when you wrap a cause around it, like a flag or a god—or money.” The narrator’s cause is money and really, what else is left to him? The Pacific Rim Coalition has invaded, the US has fallen and shattered into pieces, and there’s nothing left but simple survival for most of the residents of Los Angeles.
Jonah does most of his killing for a Chinese gangster named Alice Xie and mainly for the memory chip that most people have installed in their skulls. The chips, containing the entirety of a person’s life, are valuable on the black market because with them it’s possible to relive a person’s life. Not that it’s their lives that people pay big money for.
No, what makes the chips valuable is the owner’s death.
With a memory chip a person can experience the moment of death in full 3D, “the white, burning rush of death’s chemical dump.” It’s the ultimate drug and Jonah is a junkie, replaying other people’s deaths until euphoria turns into unconsciousness.
From the opening scene Convergence rocks and it never really stops until the end. There’s a gritty realism to this book that makes it easy to fall into it and lose track of the outside world. Jonah, the narrator, is, like a lot of other people, just trying to survive in a world that has turned upside down.
Convergence has its shortcomings—I found Jonah’s relationship with Alice a little hard to swallow at times and I’d like to know just a bit more about the organization Kaften works for—but overall it’s a fine book and just super when you consider it is Hicks’ first novel. I expect to enjoy his novels for years to come.