NESFA Members' Reviews

The Pixel Eye

by Paul Levinson

Tor, 2003, ISBN 0-765-30556-9

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is the latest adventure of Phil D'Amato, NYPD forensic psychiatrist in a very near future New York. Although The Consciousness Plague was somewhat influenced by 9/11, this is the first truly post-9/11 D'Amato tale. His immediate boss, Jack Dugan, is now Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, New York's own Homeland Security czar, and Phil is still reporting to him.

Any mystery series whose protagonist is not a detective gradually experiences an increasingly hazy connection between that person's theoretical job and what they actually do, and as The Pixel Eye opens, Phil, at Dugan's request, is investigating city park workers' reports of missing squirrels. The fear is of course that the missing squirrels may signal the start of a new epidemic, whether natural or the result of a biological attack. The squirrels aren't dying, though; they're just temporarily missing, and as Phil investigates missing squirrels, stolen hamsters, and other omnipresent rodents, he finds something even more alarming. A visit to a rodent research facility, where scientist Jill Cormier is studying the auditory abilities of hamsters, leads to an accidental encounter with former NY policeman Frank Catania, now a special agent in the new Homeland Security Department, and that leads Phil down increasingly strange and potentially paranoid paths. where neither he nor the reader know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, or even which players are working together and which are rivals or opponents. Hamsters as listening devices, conflicting stories on whether or not squirrels are being used for video recording, research labs that burn down immediately after Phil visits them, creepily sophisticated hologram-enhanced A.I.s, and some terrifying speculation about what might be down with miniaturized bombs and the rats and mice we shall have always with us, make for a tense and exciting story, with Phil never knowing who he can trust and who he can't. And in the end, he doesn't know whether he's stepped up another level in the forces of good, or embraced the forces of darkness.

A very satisfying addition to the series.

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