Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Strange Flesh by Michael Olson

Heartache and a passion for hacking have comprised James Pryce's post-college years. Unsurprisingly, when he's offered the chance to work for his lost love, Blythe Randall, James quickly takes the job. She and her brother, Blake, need his cyber-spy services to track down their wily half-brother, Billy, who's sworn to destroy Blake, and has the cash to back up his threats. James's investigation launches him from a lifestyle of casual sex with strangers into a virtual reality of deviant sexual behaviour. But his involvement in this online world of depravity and his cover as a video journalist start to bleed into his real life when he becomes involved in a project to develop virtual reality sex toys. By the time he realizes the truth, it may be too late for him to escape his carnal new reality.

My experience with thrillers consists of Hannibal by Thomas Harris and Cujo by Stephen King. I found the former dry and the latter enthralling. I suppose Strange Flesh falls somewhere in the middle; the book certainly held my attention when I was reading it; I was drawn in by the libertine world of online sex, a voyeur amoung voyeurs. But, it wasn't too hard to set down at the end of my lunch, or when I got off the train. Except the end. When my lunchbreak ended, leaving me with only ten pages to go, I surreptitiously finished the book at my desk.

As far as characterization is concerned, James is a pretty conventional protagonist. The book is carried by the cast of secondary characters: the delicate Blythe, her twin brother Blake, the devious Billy, and Olya the Russian vixen. Michael Olson does a good job of navigating James through his encounters with these characters within and without the online world of NOD. I think making James a run-of-the-mill, everyman kind of computer nerd makes it easier for the average reader to relate to him. While there's a large real-life population of people getting off in the online world, readers of this book are unlikely to be among them. So, it's necessary to create an average-guy lens for readers to view the story through.

That being said, I didn't find the book overly erotic or explicit. Olson treated any sex scenes with a detached, analytic voice (reminiscent of the experience for online sex participants?). This book is a mystery-thriller not a lewd sexual drama. For that reason, I suggest it to anyone who enjoys the genre. Let Strange Flesh draw you into a titillating near-future world.

Copy format: provided free by the publisher
Genre: mystery / thriller
Format: hardcopy

No comments:

Post a Comment