(2007) Jeffrey Thomas, Solaris, £7.99, pbk, 414pp, ISBN 1-84416-447-0
Pardon me for tackling this review bass-ackwards, but it is worth mentioning that this is 'a Punktown novel' and my confession is that, until now, I had never heard of Jeffrey Thomas or Punktown. Which is a bit embarrassing when I look at the 'other books' listing and find Punktown novels Health Agent, Everybody Scream! and Monstrocity, as well as the collections Punktown and Punktown: Shades of Grey and the anthology (edited by Thomas) Punktown: Third Eye, not to mention at least 4 other novels (one based on Nightmare on Elm Street) and at least 7 other collections by the man. Mea Culpa. I guess it just goes to show that no one can be aware of absolutely everything that's out there, even if it has been out there for quite a while. It is especially annoying as I quite liked Deadstock in a giant-monster-trashing-a-city kind of way, and also in a hard-boiled-private-detective kind of way; more especially as, from what I can gather from the sparse references in this book to the previous novels, I would like those too in the same way. Which means I now have even more books on my pick-'em-up-when-you-can list, and it is not like my 'unread' pile of books (be they review copies or otherwise) ever really falls below half a dozen or so... Anyway, the point is that I really liked this -- though it is more entertainment than brain food -- enough that I would/will seek out more by this guy.
So, having said all that, here is the plot. The book 'stars' one Jeremy Stake, a continuing character from previous offerings, a private detective in Punktown, which is a 'crime-ridden metropolis on a colony world, Oasis' and which is 'home to the scum of countless alien races'. Stake has an uncontrollable chameleon-like ability to morph into the shape and look of other individuals, which is handy in his line of work, but a bit of a pain from the 'uncontrollable' point of view. He is hired by a wealthy company owner, Fukuda, to find his daughter's stolen, one-of-a-kind, utterly priceless living doll, Dai-oo-ika. But Dai-oo-ika contains banned technology (from a previous novel) that means it is growing in size and intelligence, might not want to be found, and might have an agenda of its own. Which is about as much of the plot that I care to give away in this relatively short novel, other than to say that long-time genre readers will have loads of fun unpicking all the references to the work of many other authors, not least HP Lovecraft (another reason it appeals to me specifically), and characters, not least Godzilla, and so on. Over all, a good and satisfying science-fantasy romp. Readers more familiar with Thomas's work than me will hardly need my recommendation to pick this up, as they're probably already 'sold', but the rest of you can take my word for it that this is a highly entertaining novel and great fun.
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