Book Review: AFTERPARTY - Mania.com



Book Review

Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Author: Daryl Gregory
  • Publisher: Tor Publishing
  • Book Genre: Thriller/Scifi
  • Format: Hardback, 304 pages
  • Series:

Book Review: AFTERPARTY

Don't Take the Brown Acid

By Chuck Francisco     May 05, 2014
Source: Mania.com


AFTERPARTY by Daryl Gregory
© Tor Publishing
Envision a near future world where designer DIY drugs can be downloaded from the internet and printed off like so many cheap plastic toys. A crowd sourced pleasure machine with near limitless potential to addict is something so close to reality that just the thought of it is troubling. Author Daryl Gregory (Pandemonium and The Devil's Alphabet) drops us into this already established scene, tailing along in the adventures of brilliant chemist turned mental ward inhabitant Lyda Rose. It isn't as though she doesn't belong there, though she isn't traditionally insane. Lyda was part of a start up team working to develop a drug to cure schizophrenia, before something went tragically wrong and her her whole team overdosed on the compound, NME 110. The resulting condition of a Numinous overdose is a permanent hallucination of the subject's very own conduit to god, whatever their religious denomination may be.

Lyda's situation is particularly humorous because she's a militant atheist whose imaginary guardian protector is an angel of god named Dr. Grace. There's a superb dynamic between the woman and her illusionary friend, a battle of wills which never quite tips far enough to give either advantage. Interestingly this supposed hinderance can also offer assistance, when Lyda is willing to work in concert with her. Since Dr. Grace is a part of her brain, she can access memories and information which she merely glimpsed at with uncanny accuracy. None of this would have particularly mattered, with Lyda content to languish perpetually on the ward, until a newly admitted street junkie kills herself after muttering about the loss of and absence of god's presence. 

Realizing that someone on the outside has found out about Numinous, and is making it available for free to the masses via strip mall churches, Lyda has to escape and put an end to the madness which she's partially responsible for creating. In the process she'll make deals with a dangerous matriarchal drug cartel boss, while relying on fellow ward patient, ex-special forces operator, and sometimes flame Ollie, former ward buddy Bobby (who believes that he lives inside a plastic aquarium trunk which he wears around his neck), and Rovil, one of Lyda's team members who seems to have his own illusionary friend (Elephant head god Ganesh). In hot pursuit is a cold and ruthless hitman who obtains those qualities out of a pill bottle (when he isn't dosed, he's a pacifist who raises thimble sized Bison).

AFTERPARTY is a wickedly devious romp though the lowest end echelon of first world society. Daryl Gregory crafts a tale in the very best veins of William Gibson, where the characters are all from among the dregs if society, fighting desperately to stay afloat in cultures that never bother to look down far enough to notice them. Is this the first novel in a burgeoning Pharma-punk subgenre? Perhaps. It feels strikingly akin to some of Gibson's best work; Burning Chrome comes to mind. The characters are severely flawed, and in very unenviable straights. Yet they persevere. They aren't above doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, or perhaps just what they perceive to be the right reasons. 

The experience on these pages coalesces as a taut thriller, riddled with clever twists and superbly timed revealing flashbacks. Lyda is an emotional wreck of a human being, for whom tragedy is never far behind. The emotional struggle she is forced to trudge through is gripping, harrowing the reader in Waltz time with the poor protagonist. The entirety of this dance is performed on an entirely plausible, near future stage. Gregory has crafted a vibrant Toronto of tomorrow, then thrown a bucket of mucky wear and tear upon it to make it feel lived in. The result is a memorable, genre bending journey which suggests tough questions, then steps back to let the reader answer for themselves. 

AFTERPARTY is a clever, inventive tale which engages in the best traditions of William Gibson, potentially invents a new PharmaPunk subgenre, and never decelerates while banking up the turns of its thrilling narrative. AFTERPARTY  by Daryl Gregory is available now from TOR Books for $26.99.

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.

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