Rod MacDonald writes:
This book, ‘88’, seems to have it all as far as action is concerned. Coming from Canada, we have a novel by Michael R Fletcher, which on first inspection appears to be a little like Vin Diesel’s ‘Babylon A.D.’ with also bits of ‘Resident Evil’ chucked in, such is its flavour, although on closer inspection, it does have its own distinct and unique identity.
An old argument is awakened, that being the conflict between nurture and nature. Are we enslaved and governed by our genetic code or do we have free will to steer our own path through life? Lysenko went for the latter with disastrous results for Russia and Pavlov and Skinner with their dogs and pigeons apparently went for the genes but probably it’s a mix up between the two and we will never really come to an answer. This is a question that arises in ‘88’. Exactly who or what is 88? It turns out 88 is a young woman with a brain that has been programmed to be a computer.
In this futuristic world of 2034 that Fletcher presents, human brains have proved to be the most useful computers, far going beyond their machine counterparts. Though we might not think so, properly managed brains are very good at computing, especially when the subject is autistic. 88 has been destined since birth to be a computer but she doesn’t like it and, switching to break free from her genetic constraints, she tries to make a run for it with memories of an uncertain past haunting her every movement. Rather like the Robocop’s dreams she tries to come to terms with her past.
In comes a guy called Griffin Dickinson. This special investigator with fairly good abilities has been set the task of crushing the black market in human brains. In opposition is a Mafia that makes money out of the production and sale of the brains and they don’t like 88 setting out for a life of her own. Dickinson, along with some weird bodies, including an electronic ghost, tries to make a difference in this corrupt and dangerous world. Against them is an army of what can only be described as children zombies in souped-up suits, with no minds of their own except to serve and be loyal to the Mafia. One in particular, a guy called Archaeidae, is particularly nasty. You wouldn’t want to meet him! Dickinson has got to do battle with Mr. Nasty in order to look after 88 and smash the illegal trade in human brains.
Fletcher’s descriptions are particularly good, taking time to immerse the reader in the world he has created and though there is plenty of action on offer, that’s not all we get. The characters are not stereotypes but come through as real people. They are three-dimensional! I’m not really sure if another 20 years or so will see such changes to society, changes which would involve the radical electronic transformations that he suggests but the author has maybe got an inkling as to future developments that will plague us in distant years.
This is an interesting book and one worth reading. It’s probably one best expressed in another form, movies perhaps, but in the meantime enjoy it as it is. The sequel should be good.
(pub: Five Rivers Publishing. 400 page enlarged paperback. Price: $30.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-92740-023-4. Ebook: Price: $ 9.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-92740-024-1)
check out website: www. fiveriverspublishing.com