Playback Effect By Karen A. Wyle

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The sale of vivid dreams has become a reality in this high-test legal / sci-fi thriller from author Karen Wyle. Purchase a high-tech helmet and you can feel the carnal pleasures of someone’s guilty liaison — or experience an agonizing death. It’s up to you.

Unless, of course, you’ve committed a crime, as Harold “Hal” Wakeman has been accused of doing. Authorities allege he planted a powerful bomb inside a fountain sculpture that he designed. The resulting explosion killed or injured dozens — including his wife, Wynne.

When the couple discover a mental process that can make them forget their PTSD-like memories, they also discover that she can undergo the procedure – but he cannot. Intense recriminations ensue.

Wynne creates a wide spectrum of dreams and records them for sale, via the futuristic helmet technology that plays such a large part in this story. And the author is particularly good at describing the idyllic scenes Wynne conjures up:

‘She was floating, floating in a golden, glowing place of perfect warmth, rocking, cradled.She had nothing to need, nothing to do; she could simply float, and wait, and be.”

The supporting cast of characters complement the main protagonists very well, weaving texture into the book with their depth and complexity.

Arthur, Hannah, Tertius, Warden Heath, Dream Daemon — all play their parts flawlessly as the mystery rolls inexorably toward its stunning conclusion.

In a world where vicarious gratification is bought and sold like apples in a supermarket, no experience seems out of bounds — except, perhaps, the so-called “snuff product,” in which a person’s death is recorded and sold.

It’s grim stuff to contemplate, but, like all good science fiction, it’s uncomfortably close to plausibility — and therefore all the more terrifying.

Five stars to Playback Effect. It’s.excellent dystopian fare

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