Atom book review
Thought I'd share my review (before it gets posted where I usually contribute), of a quirky SF novel which I hope will be of interest.
Atom by Steve Aylett (Phoenix House/Orion Books, UK, and Four Walls Eight
Windows, NY, USA, Oct. 2000, 9.99UK, $14.95, hardcover/UK, trade
paperback/USA, UK - ISBN#: 1-861591-24-1, USA - ISBN#: 1-56858-175-0).
British author of 'slipstream', avante-garde SF, Steve Aylett, with many
previous books under his belt and whose reputation for outrageousness
precedes him, does it again! 'Atom', a recent novel (in print and readily available), definitely
lives up to expectations.
The protagonist, Mr. Taffy Atom, a private detective of an unconventional
and eccentric sort, comes with a sidekick that's even weirder: Jed Helms, a
voraciously vicious human personality somehow grafted onto a souped-up brain
in the body of a giant goldfish! The near-future setting, as in Aylett's
novel 'Slaughtermatic', features the city of 'Beerlight' that 'sprawls like
roadkill'. The plot, a bit thin, but then the book's length is only 137
pages, takes Atom on a mission to trace a missing brain that vanished the night the
City Brain Facility blew up and the grey matter that's gone belongs to none other
than Tony Curtis. A motley crew of bizarre gangsters will do
anything to see that Atom, his gorgeous, smart and tough girlfriend Madison
Drowner and Jed Helms don't succeed.
Aylett's books do not provide reading for depth of character, intense emotional
subtlety or intricate background descriptions - rather, the reading experience resembles a
manic anime noir where the imagery dominates - stark and startling, with
satirically over-the-top metaphors abounding and the pacing lightning-swift, cutting from one scene to the next almost too fast to
follow. Yet the clever and witty language carries the reader happily along
for the mad car-chase of a ride in order to encounter bits like this: "Industrial gothic was tempered by Bren Shui, the art of
exchanging negative energy with the environment through the correct
placement of firearms around the house." Laugh out loud moments of this
sort are to be found on practically every page of 'Atom' for Aylett definitely delivers outrageousness.
Everything in the book, extreme to the max, borders on caricature: Atom, the
ultimate cynical, wise guy gumshoe; Madison, the smart-mouthed babe; Jed
Helms, surreal and bizarre; Joanna, the hulking, amusingly dumb henchman,
that's right, man; and then there's the fiendish mastermind behind it all,
Candyman, not to mention a whole bevy of colorful supporting characters.
Everyone talks in the snappy patter of the author's slangy dialog
(warning - contains curse words), voices that dominate the text and propel the story.
'Atom', wild and crazy and funny, replete with satirical allusions to much
of contemporary and current pop-cultural trends - all extrapolated to the
mind-stretching max, makes for a high energy romp very hard to beat!
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