Richard Paul Russo
Completed 4/20/2020, Reviewed 4/20/2020
This is a cyberpunk murder mystery set in the near future. It takes place in a decrepit San Francisco about mid-21st century. The best thing about this book was that there wasn’t a lot of jargon and the number of characters wasn’t astronomical, like the last cyberpunk book I read. The worst part of the book was that it had no tension, no development of or insight into the character of the killer. The main narrative follows the ex-cop named Tanner who is tracking down a lead into the identity of the killer. A secondary narrative follows a street punk named Sookie who for some reason begins to follow Tanner. We get nothing on the killer until the very end. I was bored by the lack of tension and action, but still impressed that what was there was written pretty well. This book was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke Award back in ’93.
Bodies are found at the bottom of bodies of water in the San Francisco area with shackles grafted to their wrists and chained together in pairs. Wings are tattooed on the inside of their nostrils. This modus operandi is identical to several murders from about two and a half years before. It looks like the serial killer who was responsible for the first set of murders is back in action. Tanner, the ex-cop who is now a smuggler, decides to help the police force by investigating the only lead he had with the original murders, a note sent by a crime lord named Rattan claiming to know the identity of the murderer. Tanner spends most of the book trying to find Rattan.
Sookie sees the extraction of the first bodies from the bay in the new series of murders. She also sees Tanner watching the scene. Later, she runs into Tanner while he is in the Tenderloin searching for Rattan. The Tenderloin is the most dangerous part of future San Francisco. She begins to follow him around. During one of her excursions, she ends up in something called the Core, where she actually meets some strange entity who might be the killer, though nothing really comes of it. In the meantime, she helps Tanner out of a tight situation or two and warns him of the danger of looking for Rattan.
I found it interesting that the characters of Tanner and Sookie were pretty well developed. We get a lot of back story on Tanner, mainly his loves and the tragedies in his life. We know what drives him. Sookie on the other hand, has no back story. We don’t know her motivation. But we learn a lot about her by following her around as she follows Tanner. I kind of liked both Tanner and Sookie. I felt like I got into their heads pretty well.
I give this book three stars out of five. Overall, the book is highly readable. It is very well written. Unlike many science fiction murder mysteries I’ve read, it’s pretty straight forward. But it falls flat in that there is very little action and no interaction with the killer. We are so focused on Tanner looking for Rattan that we almost forget about the killer. We only find out about him in a big reveal at the end.