The Fourth Wall
Walter Jon Williams
Orbit, Feb 13 2012, $13.99
Former child star Sean Makin cannot believe how humiliatingly he has fallen since he peaked at thirteen as he nears his thirtieth birthday. His parents spent all he earned as a kid rather than put money in a trust fund. Mortifying his only source of income is making a fool of himself by getting his head knocked in on reality TV Celebrity Pitfighter against other has-beens.
Pregnant Dagmar Shaw offers Sean some meaningful work on Escape to Earth, a plan to combine a movie with an interactive game about the life of Roheen an anthropologist from another dimension stranded on Earth. She believes Sean is perfect to play Roheen due to his pedomorphic physical state that leaves him with an enormously overlarge babyish head, and limbs belonging to someone a foot taller than him. Joey da Nova, who once worked with Sean, directs the project. All is well until an unknown adversary tries to murder Sean. He has no idea why while others on the production are murdered. Sean fears secretive Dagmar and her enigmatic Asian backer are behind the homicides, but the motive remains elusive.
This is an exciting near-futuristic suspense as the mysterious gamester Dagmar returns (see This Is Not a Game and Deep State), which means those in her circle tend to die. Sean is terrific as a self-pitying alcoholic who knows his Hollywood especially the bad and the ugly. Dagmar plays a support role to the fallen idol and the serial murder resolution a bit weak, fans of the Shaw taut thrillers will enjoy this fun ultra-dark tale filled with information on movies, games, electronic monitoring and homicide.