by Richard Kadrey
Richard Kadrey's Metrophage is jacked directly into our information future. His protagonist, Jonny Qabbala, shares many of the characteristics of a romantic archetype: young, with a difficult past and an even harder present, possessed of secrets he does not initially suspect, he is thrust into situations he does not understand and can overcome them only by coming to know himself. Jonny, however, is a street dealer and hustler, a former killer for the oppressive "Committee for Public Health." His world is the Los Angeles of Blade Runner with the amp turned up to 11. Hovercraft zip over neon-lit streets that link to shadowed alleys through which roam gangs of every stripe: the Zombie Analytics, the anarchist-physician Croakers, the Naginata Sisters, the Lizard Imperials.
Kadrey builds his prose and his characters like they have built their city, from cast-off shards arranged in telling and useful patterns. Like many of his science fiction contemporaries, his prose influences are more William S. Burroughs, Robert Stone and Jayne Anne Phillips than Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein. At times his prose skids into purple, but often his images merge city life, pop culture, computers, and dada.
Central to Kadrey's plot and the society he has created is the anarchist notion of the Spectacle: an evil made of government manipulations, mysterious enemies too large to beat, imaginary barriers that pen us in and keep us isolated, our lives seemingly beyond our own control. The prime Spectacle of this world revolves around the alien Alpha Rats, new owners of the moon and the laboratories that orbit it, possible sources of a virally induced pseudo-leprosy that is killing the street people of Los Angeles. Jonny is caught between those who want to own the disease, those who want to cure it, and those content to sit back and just watch. The plot moves quickly, if occasionally predictably, as Jonny bounces back and forth between helplessness and illusions of power and control.
(M. L. Van Name)
Graphic: Frank Miller, Ronin
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Metrophage ...
The arm Skid held up strobbed madly: the arm of a woman, a reptile, an industrial robot; crimson spiders webbed him; amber alphanumerics scrolled up his twisted face; Brando, Lee, Bowie, Vega; his system was looping, the faces flickering faster and faster, merging into one metafantasy face...
Smokefinger tracked the ghostly hologram of the presidential limousine as crimson numbers flickered in the metallic-blue Dallas sky, reading out his score.
"Hell," said the bartender, "everybody in Last Ass is in the wrong business."