If I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be
"derivative." Of course, I'm not going to sum it up in one word---you
should know better than that, dear reader. So where shall we start in
disassembling this piece of Australian cyberpunk?
Well, first of all, the mere fact that it's Australian brings a breath
of fresh air to the proceedings. It isn't set in either of the US
coasts, nor the decaying citadels of a once-great Europe, nor Japan.
Rather, Ms. de Pierres has elected to do the smart thing and write
from what she knows: the setting of the book is a gigantic slum called
the Tert on the outskirts of an Australian city that might be the
future of Melbourne. Or maybe not: it is left deliberately bereft of
Also appropriately, there are little things that hook into local
culture, like the feral gangsters called 'goboys (the 'go is short for
dingo), bits of aboriginal mysticism creeping around the edges, and a
sense that the North (all those other continents) is a whole different
world and somehow irrelevant to local life.
From there, however, things descend into a dreck of standard cyberpunk
cliches. The world is polluted to hell: check, there is a character
who dies in a few weeks from mercury poisoning delivered via fish.
There is out-scale urbanity: check, the Tert is a hundred-kilometer
diameter slum. There is decaying monstrous infrastructure: check,
pipes that somebody can use to cross the whole of the Tert. There is
complete social darwinism: check, monster gangs, military attack news
media. There is weirdshit: a zone that nobody returns from, Chinese
mystics, a mysterious group of tribal rulers, etc.
And the book has its own weird vibe going, I'll give it that. The twist
that shows up halfway through is... painful. I won't tell you what it
is, but it took me completely by surprise because it was such pure,
unadulterated bullshit. It just didn't belong. Maybe it'll make more
sense after the sequels that I've noticed popping up on the new book
shelf. I doubt it, however, because the twist was basically introduced
with a supervillain-style plot dump and took over the book from that point.
Oh, I had no problem finishing the book. You just have to roll with
it, like you do with Golden Age stories when they start talking about
radiation. It left a sour taste in my mouth, though, because Ms. de Pierres
had set me up thinking that it was a more serious and realistic book.
In retrospect, however, the cartoonish dimensions of everything in the
book are actually reasonably fitting for the mad plot twist---perhaps
that fault is in me for not seeing the signs earlier.
In any case, it's not a bad book if you want some cyberpunk nummies.
There's no new ground being broken, no great ideas in the process of
being born, and nothing much to think about afterward. Mostly, it's
just an action novel, and it succeeds just fine at that. If that's
what you want (in black leather and genetic engineering) then "Nylon
Angel" will give it to you in a nice, well written package.