Cyberpunk glitz and biotechnology blend with warped Eastern mysticism in Alexander Besher's loosely linked Rim series. This began with Rim
, set in 2027, and continued with Mir
--in which one bizarre invention was sentient tattoos. By the time of Chi
it's 2038 and the world is even weirder. Vast bootlegging operations deal in chi, a life-force energy that can be technomagically sucked from unwilling victims and used to give rich addicts enhanced intelligence, great sex, and even "short-time immortality." Meanwhile, hackers break into nature's equivalent of the Internet, whose central node is a tree in Indonesia that channels telepathic e-mail to apes and others--which includes, of course, "win a million bananas" spam messages. Orangutans are surgically and genetically remodelled into surrogate children for an increasingly infertile world: the human/ape species barrier is crumbling. A mysterious and decidedly offbeat global spiritual transformation is threatened. Besher mixes surreal comedy, a spice of gruesomeness, and enough weird sf ideas for half a dozen books. (Under-shell deodorant for snails? Good grief.) The plot is a wild roller-coaster ride that ends with several loose threads and a shaggy-dog punchline. Great fun, but Chi
promises slightly more than it delivers. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
Besher's pop cult following should be delighted by this psychedelic merry-go-round of holistic mumbo jumbo and virtual reality treats. In 2038, humanity is still searching for the next big score; if not money, then chiAthe primal life force. The wealthy have access to ways to harness and technologically enhance chi. In the fleshpots of Thailand, Butterfly, a transsexual hooker, is looking to steal chi technology from unsuspecting tourists. Instead, she meets a being so extraordinary, so bursting with supernatural chi, that it may redefine the boundaries of human potential. The story, like a Rube Goldberg device, then bounces into a series of highly entertaining but seemingly random events that ingeniously move the plot forward. Wing Fat, an obscenely obese Asian merchant who markets sex, drugs and decadence, tries to sell a piece of super-size chi. Two orangutans who have humanity thrust upon them through technology see their lives torn asunder. There's a love story related to Paul Sykes, a freelance journalist, through his contact with Rodney the Philodendron, an exceptional plant with recall of the green communications network; Rodney is tapped into by an "algorithm for converting chlorophyll into an organic search engine." These incidents, and many others, lead to an event of cosmic import on an island off the Thai mainland, where the nature of reality may be changed forever by the power of chi. Though Besher's (Rim; Mir) parts may be greater than the whole, and his vision more scintillating than deep, the ride he provides is wildly inventive, provocative and exhilarating as he struggles to make inner space, cyberspace and green space meld into one fluid world. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.