cover image Kamikaze L'Amour: A Novel of the Future

Kamikaze L'Amour: A Novel of the Future

Richard Kadrey. St. Martin's Press, $20.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13100-5

Although set in a near-future in which most of California south of San Francisco has become rain forest, there's enough traditional narrative lurking in the pages of Kadrey's well-wrought second novel (after Metrophage) to make it appealing to others beside SF fans. The narrator, Ryder, is a rock star who describes himself as ``either crippled or blessed at birth with a neurological condition known as `synesthesia,'"" a cross-wiring of the senses according to which he sees sounds. ``Mahler is a boiling red fog; Steve Reich is long silver rods; and the Velvet Underground's first album is black wax floating in a pool of mercury.'' Ryder, who has faked his own death to escape the rock scene, travels to San Francisco, where he befriends the musically talented Frida, who approaches the rain forest the way Ryder ``sees'' music. He also meets a shady promoter calling himself Virilio, who wants him to record publicly again, even as tapes of music he and Frida have produced from the sounds of the rain forest are mysteriously stolen. When Frida flees to the jungleland that was once L.A., Ryder and Virilio pursue her, leading to more strange encounters and a climax that is too quotidian for the zaniness that precedes it. Although the novel doesn't fulfill its implied promise of a gonzo ending, Kadrey offers a long, strange trip with many delights along the way. (June)