cover image Strange Flesh

Strange Flesh

Michael Olson. Simon & Schuster, $25 (412p) ISBN 978-1-4516-2757-2

In his head-spinning literary thriller, Olson takes us down a rabbit hole of kinky cybersex and multilevel mystery. Computer security expert James Pryce is hired by ex-lover Blythe Randall and her twin brother, Blake, to track down their younger half-brother, Billy, missing since recording his own apparent self-electrocution. Black sheep Billy is a large stockholder in the twins’ multimedia empire, IMP, which is gearing up for a major takeover. James follows Billy’s trail to a Lower East Side high-tech artists’ collective, gaining the trust of techies who’ve created the next iteration of virtual sex. At the same time, he enters NOD, a massive multiplayer digital environment, where Billy has started an s&m game based on the work of the Marquis de Sade. It all leads to Gina Delaney, a provocateur friend of Billy’s who arranged her own grisly suicide by drill press. The reader eagerly slipstreams behind James as he powers through various levels of reality, both real and virtual, trying to figure out what Billy’s game really is—and what role James might play in it. If this thriller reads like John Fowles’s The Magus as reimagined by William Gibson on a Red Bull bender, well, given the references, that’s exactly the effect the author wants to achieve in this complex, cutting-edge debut. Agent: Jenn Joel, ICM. (Apr.)