Title: Worlds Enough & Time
Swift Publishers / 392 pages / September 1999
When we last left the talented Mr Williams, it was at the end of his amazing chapbook, A View Before Dying (Ticonderoga Publications). After giving readers that tantalising tidbit, he returns with a hefty tale worth every extra ounce.
Metal Fatigue is his debut novel, but it reads like the work of a seasoned pro — one who hasn’t lost the sense of adventure that a fictional world can create. If an author can be both a master and a novice, Williams has captured the best of both stations.
One of the most striking aspects of the book is the simple and perfect depiction of the title. Metal Fatigue is, taken at its most simplistic level, a story of the finite lifespan of all things.
Kennedy Polis is the only remaining metropolis in what was, at one time, the United States. As the rest of the country disintegrated around them, Kennedy viciously defended its borders and survived. Forty years later, though, the city is just barely shambling along. No contact with the outside world means no new influx of resources or technology. Kennedy is wearing out around them, and the only way to escape the slow death is to re-open its barricades and reassimmilate.
It may be the only choice, but that doesn’t mean everyone has accepted the idea. And “someone” is determined to head off the reunification — with the murder of politicians, the theft and sabotage of data, and the framing of an innocent man. An innocent cop.
Phil Rhoads doesn’t like the assignment. Or his colleagues. Or the fact that he seems to be the one with the most to lose. Namely, his life.
Metal Fatigue is a tough, violent novel of decay and defiance. As in any situation involving human beings, there will always be those who resist the inevitable, running into the jaws of death to preserve something they cannot save. Like the material resources in Kennedy, its citizens are crumbling. Without assistance from the Re-United States of America, or another ally, it will be a race to see which collapses first.
Williams knows how to keep the action and the tension taut. The race to discover the person or persons behind the civil unrest is a nail-biter right down to the finish. Rhoads and his partner Barney (that’s Ms Barney to you) are not allowed a moment to rest, so why should the reader have such a luxury?
Basically, they are married to this case and so are you. No one takes a break until it’s over. One way or another.
So, get some provisions stocked up beside your comfy chair and be ready for the long haul. Once you step into William’s meticulously, but effortlessly, created world, you will not be allowed to leave until the danger is past. Don’t worry, though, you won’t want to, no matter how complicated things get.
And the things I couldn’t even hint to you about… Hoo boy!