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