This is an overly ambitious attempt at a post-apocalyptic tale, set in England after some sort of nuclear catastrophe has destroyed Japan and devastat..Show More »ed Russia. The US appears to have devolved to some sort of religious fundamentalism. China and the rest of Europe are not mentioned. Our hero, Sam, is a theoretical physics grad student with a sinister past. In a rash decision, he foils a kidnapping of the daughter of a crime boss.
After this display of heroism, a cavalcade of bizarre events and strange people ensue, all revolving around Sam. Among the various players: a nun as a hired gun, an AI, a clueless American programmer who manages to take over a local gang, Russian mobsters, a prophet who speaks to a machine god via a cellphone, and a Japanese crime boss trying to create a virtual Japan. As the whole place spins out of control with certain destruction due to an entity known as machine jihad, Sam appears to be the only person who gets the big picture and can deal with each random character he encounters.
At the same time, Sam happens upon what appears to be equations for the theory of everything (the classic "formula" that drives many bad spy movies which everyone is trying to retrieve before falling into the wrong hands). The equation's relevance to the rest of the story is dubious and is relegated to a closing remark in passing (because all Japanese crime bosses are physics aficionados) . In addition, exactly how a 25 year old who spent most of his youth as a Russian mobster would be able to do this is never made clear. Sam also has a bad heart that conveniently behaves until it causes problems for dramatic effect.
There are multiple inconsistencies throughout the story that leave the listener wondering. The origin of the prophet is never clear, nor why his followers behave like zombies. Exactly why the AI is creating havoc within the city is obvious, but why the virtual system administrator not know this is difficult to understand (AI thinks its "dreaming," really?). There appears to be only one functioning cop in the entire city and he's there to give Sam a hard time. There doesn't seem to be anyone in the entire city who is not with the Russian or Japanese mobs, or involved with local gangs or become zombified, except for the university which has somehow managed to remain an oasis of tranquility.