Dead Girls

Richard Calder, Author St. Martin's Griffin $19.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-312-18078-2
Imagine a writer who combines the stylistic complexities of Gene Wolfe with the sexual perversity of Poppy Z. Brite. Add a dash of cyberpunk and a double measure of the paranoia that fueled Philip K. Dick's best work. This might give you some dark presentiment of what Calder's fiction is like, but your imagination would probably fall well short of the mark. In his newest novel (after Dead Things), Calder imagines a future when virtual reality and the Net have created an alternate universe of artificial intelligences, many of whom have been downloaded into corporeal form. Much of the world's population, both human and virtual, has become obsessed with pornography and sado-masochism, and Earth's repressive governments have concluded that children are at the demonic center of the sexual madness that has overtaken the planet. As the novel opens, one downloaded AI, Dahlia Chan, former star of such pornographic and pedophiliac adventure films as Kung-Fu Nymphet from Hell, and Zane, her most obsessive (and sexually obsessed) fan, flee across the wastes of Antarctica in search of Cythera, a perhaps mythical Eden where humans and AIs can live as equals. In succeeding chapters, a variety of characters, many of them alternate-universe versions of Dahlia and Zane, most of them sexually perverse, undergo a variety of adventures, assignations, revolutions and tortures, all part of their grand and extremely convoluted quest for Cythera. Calder is a writer of undeniable talent, but it's hard to envision his intended audience. Perhaps he's writing for aficionados of both the Marquis de Sade and William Gibson or, conceivably, for those who prefer their Philip K. Dick mixed with a little J.K. Huymans. In any case, he's definitely an acquired taste. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/16/1998
Release date: 02/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 206 pages - 978-0-312-13045-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-312-95717-9
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