Artificial Evil (The Techxorcist, #1)

No, nothing to do with the stompy silver fellows. I'm talking CyberPUNK.

I don't normally read two book of the same theme close to each other. It can give rise to unfair comparisons. In fairness, I did separate these two with a blast of Clive Barker, so any comparisons I think are reasonably fair.

So, on the menu we have 'Synners', recently relaunched by Pat Cadigan, and 'Artificial Evil' by Colin F Barnes, first volume in the Techxorcist trilogy.

Superficially, there is much in common between these books; runaway evil virus, urban breakdown, individuals with unexpected abilities, and lots and lots of data processing. But that's about as far as any similarity goes.

'Synners' was like a cool shower on a baking hot August afternoon. OK, not very helpful, but as soon as I started reading I sort of felt like I had come home in a literary sense. Synners was first published in 1991, and as a writer it burns deep inside me that this was only her second book. Also, it feels somehow older then 1991; more like ten years before. It took me back to the time when I was reading a book a day because there was so much to read and I just didn't have time to get to all of it.

The style is the most glorious fusion of William Gibson's 'Neuromancer', John Brunner's 'The Shockwave Rider' (both essential reads) and a just the zest from a 'Clockwork Orange'. Everything is edgy, counter-culture, with LA still hanging on the edge of meltdown and the big corporations sticking it to the public at every opportunity. It sparkles in your mind, with terms you've never heard that still make perfect sense, alien enough to be different and yet close enough to be uncomfortably feasible.

Cleverly, by design or accident, the technology Cadigan uses hasn't really aged, partly by not being too specific about what it is or its capabilities. Sort of hinting at what stuff can do without trying to tell you how. The result is that the story hasn't dated, even if the style is a perhaps a little retro. Having only recently discovered Cadigan through 'Tea from an Empty Cup', I am now a convert and consider Pat living contradiction of the current bull going around that women cant write good SF. I'll have satisfaction from anybody who says otherwise, rapier or pistol, lightsabre or blaster, at dawn.

Barnes offering is cheese to Cadigan's chalk, or perhaps Port to her Brie - nah, stretched that too far. Artificial Evil shares, as I said, some common threads, but the setting is much more Mad Max or Judge Dredd (Stallone version). The characters are very different, too, though no less engaging. Barnes is also a compulsive tale-spinner, and uses the confusion and disorientation of the lead character as he is thrown from a safe and comfortable existence into total confusion compulsively. The like all good writers, as soon as you think you know what's going on, he twists it again. I'm reliably informed all three books in the trilogy are complete and either they are all available or the third is due out momentarily.

Barnes style is much lighter than Cadigan's. Synners was a very dense read, without much space for humour longer than one-liners. Colin scatters little easter eggs through his books, even managing to slip in a 'once does not simply walk into...(Mordor)' line that made me chuckle so hard I woke the wife and got grumbled at.

The second and third Techxorcist novels are on my Christmas list [as are the 2nd thru 5th volumes of Abarat, and anything else by Pat Cadigan, if anybody was looking to buy me... no?... well, can fault me for trying :) ]

Cover Reveal - Aphrodite's Dawn

Relaunching soon.