Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard - 2.5 out of 5.
This seems an odd choice, both for an SF Masterworks book (the edition that I read), as it's neither especially great, nor offensively bad, but just okay with some good bits & some mediocre bits.
There isn't all that much SF in this book. There is some near future war technology & a some psychic shenanigans going on, but it's one of those - “is it really a SF book” kind of things.
The book is broken into five definite sections, each of which has it's own separate location & plot. Each of these sections is further split up with other still smaller chunks. The whole thing is really just a sequence of connected short stories. There is a main journey and we meet many people along the way who play a little part & are then mostly left behind. The narrative of the book is constantly broken up throughout with various shorts & asides, visions & hallucinations. Meaning there is no real “build-up” to the main story. The writing is almost like the wandering thoughts of a day dream at times.
Then again our main character, Mingolla, is pretty messed up through the use of drugs (taken both voluntarily & by force), especially in the early & middle sections of the book, leading us to question to what's real anyway.
The power struggle (hinted at earlier in the book & the apparent cause the War) that has been going on for 100's of years between two powerful families had real possibilities within the novel (& has more than a little of the feel of Iain M Banks about it), but it was ultimately disappointing. As, in the final section, we meet the two families in question & I was made to wonder what the war was really all about? It just came over as a squabble between two immature groups that didn't get on with each other. Perhaps this may lead to a kind of gang warfare (albeit with more aristocratic leanings) but it never seemed to come across as something that would cause the large scale conflict seen in the earlier sections of the book.
Sex is often so unnecessary to a books plot & is often badly written or just awkward to read. Whilst it could probably have been left out here too, what there is, is probably amongst the more interesting & believable sex stuff that I've read, thought the relationship stuff is still pretty sappy.
The plot starts to feel pretty padded out in places, though the substance between the padding is still decent enough to be entertaining. My favourite bits were the Butterfly killing & the “a God in a helicopter” bits. The Dr Izaguirre's character also had some intriguing parts to play.