Friday, January 17, 2014

Afterparty - Daryl Gregory

A number of pages into this I had a brief reservation when I discovered that the protagonist was a lesbian. I’ve no problem with lesbians, but I do have one with books that are right-on politically correct and might begin preaching at me at any moment. However the relationships here weren't handled in a preachy way, but as simply being an accepted part of the near future, which of course they will be. And that’s science fiction at its best. Later on I did have two ‘meh’ reactions to obligatory nods towards global warming and the left-wing good right-wing mad school of thought. Both of these could have been lost by the simple expedient of removing maybe a couple of pages of unnecessary exposition.

And that leaves 300 pages of the good stuff.

Right now we’re in the midst of the smart drug revolution and we’re also beginning to produce more than just text from our printers. Combine those two and extrapolate and you get a chemjet printer, whereupon anyone with a bit of nous can download a program and run up a few A4 sheets of LSD and much more besides. But we’re producing more than drugs that make you high or hallucinate because, after all, most designer drugs now are a side-product of drug company research into curing our many ailments. Also, a drug once made might find other uses beyond its design. Now imagine a drug aimed at one target (schizophrenia) but whose larger effect in high dosages is something akin to that produced by the God helmet.

Next set a couple of psychiatric patients on a quest to try and stop this stuff getting on the streets, one of them an original developer of the drug along with her personal angel, the other a special forces lunatic with pattern recognition abilities that take her into the realm of paranoia. Toss in some drug-dealing and corporate villains and a split-personality killer who has wandered in from No Country for Old Men. Spice this with some uncomfortable questions about belief that range from a Dawkins rant to a nod to Life of Pi, along with hard neuroscience, and you a have a recipe for a good engrossing read. What you get, in fact, is smart biological cyberpunk focusing on designer drugs rather than AIs and virtual reality. I polished this off in two sessions over one day, finishing at 1.00 in the morning.


Oh, and incidentally not yet available since this is an ARC. Should be out in April this year. 

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