by Steve Aylett
(Phoenix Press, 181 pgs, p/b)
Virtual Reality, it's just sooo late 80s, isn't it? Pixellated polygons, visions of slick, plastic loveliness. Thankfully, some authors have since managed to convincingly re-establish Virtual Reality as a concept that involves more than geekboys and bored suits with too much money, rushing around firing virtual guns and picking up virtual women. Jeff Noon was one; Steve Aylett is another.
Read the first couple of chapters of this book, and the influences volley out in a scattershot rush. A Clockwork Orange, Warren Ellis' Lazarus Churchyard and Transmetropolitan and of course Jeff Noon's Vurt all spring immediately to mind, as do the lyrical cut-ups of Underworld's Karl Hyde (circa the dubnobasswithmyheadman album). Like Hyde, Aylett enjoys wordplay. Every page is filled with prickly innovation, as familiar words are spliced and triple-spliced to create new ones. This can sometimes make for hard reading, trying to get your head around all the new concepts firing across the page in a brain-twisting mess. I had to read the first couple of chapters twice. And then I got stuck.
However, a brain workout is usually a good thing, and to be honest, I'm not complaining. Dante Cubit and the Entropy Kid are a pair of foolish, pretentious boys, but they're kind of endearing, and Rosa Control is one cool cookie. Some of the dialogue is admittedly cringeworthy and can make you laugh out loud because its so bad, but the sheer inventiveness of the wordplay makes up for it. As a comic, this would be fantastic; the imagery is intense, and the action comes thick and fast. As a novel, it's not the kind of thing to read when surrounded by distractions, unless you like having to re-read passages repeatedly. A mess then, but an entertaining one.
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