readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

Out on Blue Six – Ian McDonald ***

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It’s always a great feeling to find a cyberpunk dystopia that I’d somehow overlooked.
Reminded me – just slightly – of Melissa Scott’s ‘Dreamships’ and ‘Dreaming Metal,’ – mostly because the story focuses on transgressive artists in a future, cyber city with strict caste rules.

Here, Courtney Hall, yulp (it’s the ‘yuppie’ caste), a successful cartoonist, wants to do a bit more with her comic strip, and introduce some social satire into it. She’s given a warning – but when she resorts to using a hacker to get her forbidden cartoon out to her readers, she suddenly finds herself a wanted criminal, on the run through the underground tunnels that she never knew existed.

Meanwhile, the Raging Apostles, in the chaos of a police raid, have picked up a new member. The Raging Apostles are a street performance art group, illegally made up of members from different social castes, that plans ‘flash’ style events. Their new member is Kilimanjaro West – a seeming amnesiac who picked his ‘name’ off the side of a building.

I have to admit, I’ve had mixed reactions to McDonald’s work. I loved his ‘Dervish House,’ but didn’t like (at all) some of his more surreal, absurd material, such as ‘Desolation Road.’ I further have to admit that I requested this book thinking it was a new title – it’s actually a rerelease; first published in 1989. There are bits here that I could do without – I’m just not a fan of the gene-modified talking raccoons, for example. However, many of the more ‘fractured’ elements here do eventually get pulled in – some of them very effectively. I do still feel that McDonald has improved as a writer over the past 20-odd years, but there’s a brilliance and originality on display here that makes the book more than worthwhile.

And hey – I totally agree with his message that art, and a bit of anarchy, are necessary for a vibrant, free society.

Copy provided by Open Road Media, through NetGalley. Thanks!

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