Fiction Reviews

Nylon Angel

(2004) Marianne De Pierres, Orbit, 6.99, pbk, 330 pp, ISBN 1-841-49253-1

In the future (probably late this 21st century) the very upper-middle and rich classes live in separate, well-protected cities. The rest largely live in a techno-urban squalor with its street and cyberpunk crime. Parrish Plessis is a young woman living largely on her wits. "But what's a girl supposed to do" [catch phrase], so she hitches up with an unsavoury gang largely for the protection that this provides. Then one day two fugitives from a media person murder stumble into her life and she recognises an opportunity. Tooled up and jacked full of stim, she's going for it...

Nylon Angel is very much a street SF attempt to generate a market similar to the college horror-fantasy market that Buffy The Vampire Slayer engendered. The tale is spun with plenty of action and is fast moving. The world portrayed is gritty with loads to provide detail. However along the way De Pierres forgot to do up her plot and her Parrish character's shoe laces: both fall flat. The world portrayed is not given any meaningful rationale. The detail is largely insular and unconnected, You have to accept the world as it is even though questions arise as to where do the natural resources come from to sustain both the rich and the poor? How come, in such a cut-throat and lawless environment, do most things work from electric light through to water supply, let alone there being well-stocked bars with a variety of drinks. The Plessis character soon comes across as brain dead (apart from some geeky computing skills and being able to move athletically) whose survival is down to pure chance. Every time someone gets the drop on her it turns out that the person is a friend or has friendly intention, and this lasts right up to the end. The writing is decidedly over the top. ('I... threw up my insides until they threatened to desert my abdomen for good'.) There are asides given without explanation like tea being unavailable because it cannot grow: so did this unspecified problem affect other crops? There are character inconsistencies: she will not forgive a man hitting a woman, which is not something I do but then I don't live in a rough, tough street environment with death dished daily and people slapping each other faster than a clapometer can register. There are plot inconsistencies: she travels on foot through 100 km tunnel in eight hours. The science is awful: for instance there's whole-organism cloning of a performing sixth generation set of Abba pop group clones, so so much for nature vs nurture. Any one of these by itself I could forgive, but the shoddy way this novel is constructed comes back at you again before you've recovered your breath.

The Parrish Plessis character is at best barely believable. The problem she had to face... Well quite frankly I gave up caring about halfway. Her world, be it rich or poor, De Pierres can keep it. Maybe it is just me? Maybe this book is aimed at some perceived Buffy market? But I doubt it. Buffy fans come in a variety of ages and of both sexes. The Buffy rationale is well thought out: there is a reason for all the weird things happening in her town; it is even SF if you buy the episode in which her parents and a doctor were trying to bring her back from insanity in a hospital. Conversely Nylon Angel is superficial.

The publishers signed up for at least two books in the series but the second was very much in the can by the time the first was launched. So there is no chance for the publishers and the author to react to the market. May be there is a market for this kind of thing? De Pierres may well even end up being a fantastic fiction writer. (Who writes with clarity and not, like myself, clumsily: did I mean a 'fantastic writer of fiction' or a 'writer of fantastic fiction'?) It is clear that she can paint a picture with words, but can she compose one with meaningful form? We will no doubt see.

Jonathan Cowie

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