book reviews by Althea

Afterparty – Daryl Gregory ****

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Wow! This really exceeded my expectations.

Previously, I’ve read Gregory’s ‘The Devil’s Alphabet.’ I didn’t really like that book, aesthetically, and thought it had flaws – but I thought the writing was good enough that I wanted to give the author another try. I’ve actually got ‘Pandemonium’ in my TBR backlog, but ‘Afterparty’ came up on NetGalley, so I requested it and it went to the top of the list.

I wholeheartedly loved it. What if, instead of technology, William Gibson wrote about drugs? You might get something like ‘Afterparty.’ Actually, here, the drugs pretty much are technology. In this near future,’smart drugs’ are all the rage, rather than cybernetic enhancements. Designer cocktails which can drastically rearrange your neurons are simple and easy to get, due to the development of chem-jet printers, which can mix up a dose for you without too much effort. Plain old tobacco cigarettes are more strictly controlled than any number of bizarre intoxicants.

However, the founders of the start-up company Little Sprout weren’t interested in a party drug. They hoped that their medical research might be able to find a cure for schizophrenia. However, the events of one terrible night led to them all being affected by an overdose of their own product.

Lyda Rose, formerly a successful businesswoman, is now in a mental hospital and accompanied by an imaginary angel. But when a young woman is admitted to the hospital with religious delusions that mirror Lyda’s own, Lyda fears – with cause – that the drug she developed has made it out onto the street. And she’s got to do something about it.

The story that ensues is a fast-moving, easy-to-read thriller – but it also has a lot to say about atheism, religion, the nature of humanity and the meaning of sanity. It’s also got a plethora of hilariously quirky characters, and sharp-witted, hip commentary on today’s society.

Recommended for subscribers to ‘Wired,’ and fans of both Neal Stephenson’s REAMde and Gibson’s ‘Pattern Recognition.’


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