DelRey-Ballantine USA, 1989/Orbit-Sphere UK, 1990
‘2000AD. The year of America’s ultimate special effect . . .’ The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Religious zealots, fanatics and Elvis believers control the USA, and rock ’n’ roll is banned. But the show that never ends is just refashioned by the God Botherers to mount ever more impressive demonstrations for the brethren. The latest planned extravaganza, sponsored by the White House, is to put giant holographs of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse above Manhattan. Are you ready to testify?
A member of the revolutionary Lefthand Path is working deep undercover at the Deacon’s HQ, an old-school cynical police officer walks the street between loyalty and insurrection. As he climbs higher, an ambitious Deacon looks to pull them both down. The outcome of the impending confrontation is uncertain and then complicated when a key figure in the establishment turns out to have a Machiavellian disposition for intrigue and is about to stage coup. Which side are you on?
Very much a post-William Gibson cyberpunk novel, with cowboy hackers, a matrix which jockeys can jack into through implants behind the ears, but it is also an old style story of the underground rising up to fight the good fight. I give nothing away when I tell you that the smart and beautiful fifth columnist ends up in bed with the hard-bitten cynical cop. A formidable team beneath the sheets and on the streets.
This is my first encounter with Farren’s fiction. It all moves along at a speedy pace, I never got bored even when the exposition felt laboured and the, sometimes, clunky dialogue made me wince. His heroes are all counterculture surrogates, all born to lose but smart enough to survive to fight another day. Motorhead bootlegs are the new currency and The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, Farren and Wayne Kramer’s musical, wins a Tony. There’s a future worth holding out for. . .