Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Good Reads :: The Unreality of Reality: When Cyber-Punk Went Noir in Kim Newman's The Night Mayor (1989)
When Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010) came to a theater near you, it brought to mind a fantastic novel I’d read many moons ago that mined the same, lucid shared dream vein called The Night Mayor (1989); and so I tracked it down and gave it another read. And then I gave that copy away to spread the love. Cut to a few days ago, when the latest trip to the local broken spine yielded up another copy, which I snagged for a more permanent residence, as I thumbed through it, looking for favorite parts, I wound up just re-reading the whole thing again and quickly concluded that you all should probably read this, too.
OK, so tune-in and plug into this: In the not to distant future, since movies and TV are a thing of the past, people look to virtual reality, where a person can be projected into their own movie inside their own head, for their entertainment. Things go a bit awry when master criminal Truro Daine tries to make this unreality a reality, with himself in control of everything, and its up to two cyber-sleuths, Susan Bishopric and Tom Tunney, to tune-in to his wavelength and put the kibosh on his nefarious schemes.
Author Kim Newman is a huge film buff and has written several reference books on said subject matter. The Night Mayor was his fictional debut and it’s a real treat for his fellow film fanatics. See, Newman’s master-criminal bases his cyber-kingdom on the shadowy, rain-soaked streets and neon-lights of vintage hard-boiled Hollywood noir movies of the 1940s, and it’s populated with several familiar characters, scenarios, actors and femme fatales of the same era -- Bogart, Powell, Robinson, Bennett and Tierney -- one of them being Daine in disguise. Which is why the authorities bring in Tunney, an outside expert on the genre (-- a surrogate for Newman, perhaps?), to help the lead cyber-detective Bishopric smoke him out.
And with this all being based in a Matrix-style virtual reality anything goes, right? And when our heroes start tweaking things a bit, movie-genres start to get cross-pollinated -- and if you think Lon Chaney Jr. showing up and sprouting whiskers in the middle of all this is wild, just wait until you see what comes stomping out of the harbor. Of course knowledge of vintage films will help your enjoyment of this book but even a cursory film fan will recognize most of the cameos, winks and nods in Newman’s book. The science part of the equation takes a bit to slog through but it’s well worth it to get the fiction. Highly recommended.