Michael Marshall Smith. Bantam Books, $22.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10604-6
Coma meets Blade Runner in this future noir thriller, a compulsively readable melding of hardboiled narrative and hardware invention. Smith forecasts a decadent future in which the rich clone themselves at birth and callously harvest replacement organs from their ""spares"" as they need them. Narrator Jack Randall, a debauched but conscientious ex-cop, flees to the megalopolis of New Richmond with seven clones he has liberated from a spare farm and is almost immediately relieved of them by a gang of thugs. Jack's efforts to find out who has abducted the spares and marked them for death plunge him into a mystery that ultimately links the two events that have shattered his life: the brutal unsolved murder of his wife and child, and his soul-searing tour of military duty in The Gap. A virtual world built from the flotsam and jetsam cluttering the Internet, The Gap is an awesome conception made to seem supernaturally eerie yet scientifically feasible. Smith elaborates this creation brilliantly, as a surreal battleground where Jack confronts the demons that have haunted him for a decade, and as a symbol of emptiness and waste that brings the novel's numerous depictions of personal and social devaluation into sharp focus. Both a disconcerting portrait of a future that might be, and a poignant study of one man's fight to resist it, this novel augurs a promising future of another sort for its author. Film rights to Dreamworks SKG. (May) FYI: This novel is an expansion of Smith's horror short story ""To Receive Is Better.""
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997