Aug 072014
Martin Reviews: AfterpartyAfterparty by Daryl Gregory
Published by Tor on Apr 22, 2014
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads

It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory's Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.

Daryl Gregory’s new book Afterparty (Tor Books 2014) couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I was right in the middle of a punishing slog through Peter Hamilton’s 2012 novel Great North Road, where the plot is so overwhelmingly forced and the characters so underwhelmingly two-dimensional, that I was beginning to wonder if this huge tome (the trade paperback is over one thousand pages, and it must weigh at least a couple pounds) was worth finishing.

Gregory’s book provided the perfect relief.

Where Hamilton’s story contains a vast set of characters, Gregory’s is a tidy first person narrative. Where Hamilton’s vision of the future consists of hyper-engineered nano dust, wearable tech, and lightwave spacecraft, Gregory’s Afterparty explores a future where unchecked pharmaceuticals have become the latest social nemesis. Finally, where Hamiton’s novel is veritable opera, one with space-bending, galaxy-bridging wormholes connecting disparate planets and solar systems, Gregory’s universe is gritty and geographically compact, the action taking place in familiar cities and in a familiar and not to distant future.

Part William Gibson, part Raymond Chandler, and part Ken Kesey, Gregory’s Afterparty is a convincing story about betrayal and redemption. There are no winners in this tale, however, only a slight tipping of the scales back in the direction of justice.

I enjoyed this short book (…it barely scratches three hundred pages.) The hoodlums were dysfunctional and real, the drug-induced hallucinations of guardian angels was artfully executed, and the future science of street drug production was tangible. The real surprise in Afterparty, though, (and it really shouldn’t have been) was Gregory’s incorporation of a gay female protagonist; one of the rare instances in a SF genre still burdened by regressive perceptions of gender and sexuality. It would have been easy for Gregory to have flipped the “she” to a “he” (and probably pleased the marketers at the same time), but he resisted, and the result was a better more complex work.

About Reviewer: Martin Fossum

An occasional reviewer at Workaday Reads, Martin Fossum is the author of Faking Smart!, Beyond Asimios and Ildarim’s Arrow.

He currently lives in St. Paul with his wife, Emily, and their irascible and lovable terrier, Max.

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