: Adam's review does a nice job of laying out the sources for Calder's bizarre splash of rainbow mayhem—sexual, interpersonal, technological, civilizational, political, dimensional—though the prevailing ones in the opening book of the trilogy would have to be Moorcock's Cornelius
and Gibson's Neuromancer
, with a splash of Nabokov and hints of Bataille by-the-bye. I expected the sex to be a bit more explicit than proved to be the case, though Calder manages an assured mixture of the erotic, the comical, the enigmatic, and the disturbing in his entertaining originality, depicting a gynoid-obsessed world wherein female automatons and simulacra are endowed with nanotechnological life seemingly solely to satisfy the motley lusts of the testicle-toting divide of the global populace. This dark, leering, and rage-tinged essence has reached its apotheosis in the Lilim
, the vampiric robot-grrls who incarnate the fallen state of a future Europe that, reaching back into the late eighteenth century to bring the air of decadence and aura of high culture well into the twenty-first as a marketing ploy, has been infected by this biotech version of Lilith's curse. What was the top-of-the-line in this artificial servant category—the Cartier Dolls—assumed, through the mutative wonder of quantum nature, the characteristics of a modern-day, saliva-envenomed vampire, through the latter of which were passed subatomic pathogens into the reproductive organs of all the human male partners who had succumbed to these sinful robots' übererotic allure
. Subsequently, these semen-infected fathers would sire human daughters who, upon pubescence, morphed into waxy-skinned, plastic-and-steel framed, raven-tressed, emerald-eyed, needle-fanged asskickers, capable of manipulating the inherent weirdness of the Quantum world in order to work magic
and oneiric will upon a simultaneously intoxicated and repulsed populace. Speaking of the latter, with one half of their offspring potentially (and growingly) doomed to dollhood, their numbers are dropping precariously, and both dolls and humans desire to flee the chaos of an interdicted Old World in order to find new avenues for existence; in the case of our teenaged protagonists—doll junkie Ignatz "Iggy" Zwakh and his girl/gynoidfriend Primavera Bobinski, who has just finished her complete transformation into a pubescent Lilim
—the loud, crazed, urban pornocracy of a doll-stacked Bangkok.
I don't want to say much more about the plot, 'cause it's a frenetic thing , puzzling at times, quirky, amusing, a carnival thrill-ride. Calder was living in Thailand when he penned it back in 1991—parked right amidst what was even then a thriving sex tourism industry—and Dead Girls
includes the latter within its selected targets, while also examining the future perils of a runaway and all-catering capitalism, romantic longing and nationalistic queue-jumping, scientific god-playing with advanced, nature-nudging technology, and, leading the pack, the myriad ways in which misogyny thrives however we configure our world. The Lilim
have been bred from that inky region of the male psyche where the words whore
rear as hissing cobras, inveigling their poisoning spirit into these prettified Cartier dolls originally concocted in a saccharine style of Pollyanna purity and coy cupidity. Now these vampiric, nanotech-bearing succubi are wreaking their own sexual vengeance upon the world, to the degree that the alarmed governments amongst the still-powerful nations are wavering between strategies to slaughter the dolls and to come to terms with them. The need to humiliate and denigrate in order to gratify, the linkage between sexual desire and the death drive, and the strive to dominate, in both sexes, to overpower those who think
they hold the whip, surface throughout; but, in the end, Calder opts to allow the story top priority, to race along even if the intriguing and troubling questions raised in the moment seem to be enveloped by the narrative's smoking tires.
And you know, that's just fine with me—because what actually works
best about Dead Girls
, and against the odds, really, when you consider how its tale was constructed, is the love story between childhood-robbed, teenaged exiles Iggy and Primavera. I'm a fucking sucker
for a well-done, convincing work through of that grand old emotion merging two individual souls into a stronger, better, buttressed one; and, notwithstanding the punchy dialogue, splatter violence, smutty depravity, and Pow! Bam!
panel-play when the novel (de)ascends to the realm of the cartoon, Calder pulls it off marvelously. Primavera is a Lilim
, by its very malevolent nature incapable of love; and Iggy—whose native English society has taken to publicly executing Lilim
like a modern Transylvanian mob—is a doll-junkie, addicted to the pleasures carried within the latter's neo-vampiric saliva, an amoral vagrant who led Primavera to the foul gates of murder. Yet, despite all of these character flaws and impediments, the brutal existential circumstances and environments through which they must wend, their loyalty and love is painted in hues that not only convince, but actually prove touching
. I knew exactly
where Calder was bringing things to seal the deal at the end of the book, what the fate for these two sorely-tried kids was going to be: and damn if, when it all came to pass as expected, I didn't resignedly shake my head and mutter Ah, you fucking bastard, Calder
. And after the cavalcade of differing emotions and sensations and pleasures I had experienced in this brief-but-quite-enjoyable textual ride, closing it all with a bemused melancholy seemed somehow right
. Well done, dude. Dead Boys
: I made it around thirty pages into DB
before setting it aside; thicker prose, planetary transposition, nastier knuckling and naughtier nookie (or was that the other way around?)—I was liking it, but I'm feeling the pressures of limited time/unlimited books something fierce
these days. I must get a handle on the stacks overflowing before my eyes, so I'm temporarily shelving Calder—I think I've the gist of the entirety, or at least enough to satisfy for the moment—until I've added a few more different and highly-desired notches to the book belt.
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