Reading Level: Adult
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: eGalley through Edelweiss
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got a copy of this novel to review through NetGalley. This was a well done and gritty cyberpunk novel. Previously I have read a variety of cyberpunk, mostly books by William Gibson and some of Neal Stephenson’s earlier works (Diamond Age and Snow Crash). I didn’t like this book quite as much as those books, but I still thought it was a fun read.
The story is set in future a Los Angeles where everything has pretty much gone to the dogs. Our “hero” (actually more of an anti-hero) is Johnny. He’s hustler that sells drugs to those who need them on the streets. He used to be part of a government organization that loosely enforced the law in Los Angeles, but he gave that up to avoid being burned out by all the stimulants the government feeds their agents.
However Johnny’s past comes back to haunt him when the government hears rumors that Johnny is involved with the Alpha Rats. The whole conspiracy is news to Johnny, but his involvement gets deeper when he one of his friends gets sick with the strange leprosy-like disease that is plaguing the streets. Now Johnny is on a mission to help cure this disease.
This book is full of Kadrey’s gritty style, one liners and over the top dialogue. For those who have read and loved his Sandman Slim series, the writing style of this book is similar is a bit less refined.
Johnny is a typical anti-hero. He is mostly out for himself but somehow ends up trying to save humanity through a series of chance encounters and mishaps. He is self-destructive to a fault, but also has a canny ability to survive almost everything. If Johnny has a super power it is survival…and maybe fast talking.
I enjoyed a lot of the side characters as well. They are all quirky and I wish we had gotten to get to know them a bit better. Johnny’s housemates are two woman named Ice and Sumi. Each of them are very intriguing and have their own quirky set of abilities. The strange good guy/bad guy Conovan is another interesting character; he has lived for a very long time due to a life extending drug that is basically rotting his body from the inside out.
The story is a bit of a mish-mash of topics. There is some government conspiracy, potential alien invasion, discussion on drug trafficking, a commentary on the medical community, as well as a dissolute community’s response to plague. The book is fast-paced and honestly a bit crazy at points.
I ended up really enjoying it. It’s a very dark story but there are crazy new things around each corner…you just never know what the next page is going to hold. It reminds a bit of Simon Green’s The Nightside series from that aspect. You never know what strangely deviant and decadent atrocity you are going to be reading about next.
There is a ton of over-the-top violence here and it is truly a thing of beauty. There’s even a whole cult of people in here who practice “violence as beauty”. Not necessarily a book for the faint of heart, but if you have read Kadrey’s other books you already know that. There are also some very explicit sex scenes between Johnny and the two women he loves.
Overall this was a crazy and fun read. It’s a very dark and gritty tale and at times has a bit of ADD going on. However I enjoyed all the crazy people and things we meet throughout the story, you really never know what you are going to be reading about from page to page. I also enjoyed all the action. Like the Sandman Slim series this book is not for the faint of heart. It is also not quite as good as other cyberpunk novels out there. While I would recommend reading William Gibson or early Neal Stephenson books first if you want to check out the cyberpunk genre, I would say if you have read those and want more cyberpunk this book is a decent option. It’s crazily creative and definitely entertaining.