Carl Sargent & Marc Gascoigne
Black Madonna (a Shadowrun book)
ROC 1996

When Renraku, one of the megacorps, get their Matrix computer system blackouted for 15 seconds, and the decker who did it says he want twenty billion nuyen thirteen days later or he will destroy their whole computer system permanently, they panic. When they do, they call Michael Sunderland, a freelance decker, one of the best. And the only clue they can give him is a picture - six centuries old and connected with a certain Leonardo from the small village of Vinci.

Michael goes back to his home country, England, where he meets his old friend Gerraint, a welsh nobleman, businessman and member of the government. They are joined by the elf mage Serrin and his Azanian wife Kristen. Together they set out to save the world as we know it.

This isn't a good book, really, but it's got some interesting stuff anyway. I actually like the Shadowrun fantasy role-playing world, with it's weird combination of cyberpunk and fantasy in the year 2050. I also enjoyed the original Shadowrun-trilogy, "Secrets of Power" by Robert N. Charette. That series was much better than this book, in my opinion. Maybe it's because Charette is a better writer, maybe it's because the ordinary shadowrunning stuff (like decking, fighting, and "shamaning") becomes quite boring after some time. Anyway, the first half of this book is full of ordinary shadowrunning (like, getting your apartment blasted out by Jean d'Arc, being hunted by the Inquisition and trying to make the heirs of the Templars co-operative, sort of).

I read this book partly - and finished it only - because I wanted to know more about the developments in Italy and the Vatican in this world. I don't know if it's because of my italophilic tendencies, but when the company finally arrives in Italy, I found the story more interesting. In Florence - ruled by the Medici family - and Venice - once again ruled by a doge - the conspiracies becomes more vivid, and more strange. And when they go to Persia, the story goes becomes real weird. Not the story about Michael and his friends, mind, the story of the world...

Because, while being a Shadowrun-book, this is also a book in the same genre as Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum": you discover the weird conspiracies that secretly rule the world, you discover the true story about Jesus, and Leonardo, and a lot more... But when mr Eco does that sort of stuff, he has real knowledge, about secret orders, art, culture and so on. Mr Sargent and mr Gascoigne have, I hope, read some facts about, for instance, 15th C Italian art, but they do not have Umberto Eco's genuine cultivation. He would never state that John the Baptist wrote Revelation, or that Aristotle shouted "Eureka!" when discovering Archimedes' famous principle. That sort of stuff is quite annoying when trying to believe in the conspiracies revealed.

If you want conspiracies, read Eco. If you want Shadowrun, read Charette. If you want to know about Italy of 2050-ies, wait for the source book.

Karl Henriksson

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Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.