“SOCIETY IS A CARNIVOROUS FLOWER”
Los Angeles is home to Jonny, a pusher with a past linking him to the Committee, a militant faction with more resources than the police and sentiments similar to white nationalism. Written in ‘88, this first wave cyberpunk novel has most of the trappings. There is no middle class anymore, just the super-rich and the dirt poor. Jonny is the now fairly typical cyberpunk anti-hero. Unlike most anti-heroes though, he' also emotionally tethered to his partner, Sumi. The impetus of his adventure is wanting to avenge the death of his friend Raquiem killed by another player in this underworld, Easy Money.
“Sumi terrified him. Sometimes, in his more callous moments, he considered her a slip up, his one remaining abandonment to emotional ties. Occasionally, when he felt strong, he would admit to himself that he loved her.”
L.A functions only as a hub for criminal activity that supports only those people in that life. Everything else has ceased to function. It’s dirty, gritty, overrun with gangs vying for this small piece of a pie. Whether you are or you aren’t, people seem to be waiting for the end, using one vice or another to self medicate. As with most everyone in this novel, the past catches up with Jonny on his murderous hunt for Easy. Colonel Zamora picks him up and gives him 48 hours to deliver his boss, a drug lord to him, or else die a very unpleasant death.
“Like some fragile species of hothouse orchid, the city existed only as long as it had the politicos’ backing. Without that, the Committee would be on them like rabid dogs. For the moment, though, the balance was there. Merchandise flowed out and cash flowed in, blood and breath of the city.”
The rest of the plot is Johnny ping-ponging his way around the city as the powder keg situation blows. Navigating different factions and trying to get to back to Sumi while it all goes to hell. There are noir aspects injected into the story and takes a lot of inspiration from other first wave cyberpunk books, especially William Gibson. Johnny gets his ass thoroughly kicked. The world makes it clear that taking an interest and getting involved is a hazard most people can’t survive. But the most interesting parts are often the world building and small details nestled therein that really make the story shine.
It focuses on the seductive and duplicitous ways the people draw one another in for self-serving connections only to be consumed by their own ambitions and greed, all while the world burns down. Everything comes at a cost. The drug lord who’s lived a long life is a lease. The drug is ultimately going to kill him and he knows it. The extension could be seen as more of a curse than a blessing. Everything bad is good for you and vice versa. When you finally lose it all, true apathy takes you and your story is then truly over. Bleak sentiment from a world gone to hell. Discover the beauty before you are devoured; no one gets out alive.
“We’re the trained dogs of the spectacle…it’s devoured our lives, our art, our dignity. But existence is not determined by the whim of politicians.”