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Deadstock Mass Market Paperback – February 27, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Living human skin is the latest designer fabric, mobile phones call the dead and genetics corporations manufacture headless livestock for the butcher in the latest dispatch from Thomas's Punktown, a vividly realized, ultra-bleak off-world cityscape, in which bloody terror and sci-fi spectacle meld to ferocious effect. The central plot—from which there are a number of strange digressions—concerns Jeremy Stake, an interdimensional war veteran and private eye who's constantly aggravated by his involuntary, Zelig-like ability to mimic those around him. His latest assignment is to track down a missing one-of-a-kind bio-doll manufactured specially for a genetics tycoon's daughter—a toy that isn't quite as defenseless as its teenage owner presumes. When describing the intricacies of Punktown's macabre culture, Thomas's prose sizzles, but the setup proves largely superfluous to the narrative, propelled by splatter-happy action and firefight climaxes, along with occasionally stilted exposition regarding extradimensional deities. Those hoping for a provocative exploration of the ethical dilemmas posed by Punktown's morbid culture—the sale of living female torsos to brothels, for example—will be disappointed. For a wild ride, however, readers will be hard-pressed to find a better vehicle than Thomas's bizarre multiverse; fans of cyberpunk noir and Lovecraftian horror will find much to enjoy in this messy, bravura hybrid. (Apr.)
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""Punktown is searing and alien and anxious and rich, and it is humane, and it is moving. Jeffrey Thomas has done something wonderful." - China Mieville "Thomas is a very good wordsmith with a fecund and detailed imagination." - Publisher's Weekly"
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While mysteries are unfolding, Jeffrey Thomas makes sure that we see all of his characters from all sides. They're not just good or bad people. Everyone is after something and has their personal demons to deal with. Thomas is usually good about showing us both sides of every story. While his setting is the weird and hyper-futuristic Punktown, his characters stay true to basic human nature. While some of these people may be clones, mutants, aliens, or even a demon-god going through an apocalyptic metamorphosis, these are people with regular thoughts, feelings, and motivations. I feel like I didn't get to see enough of Punktown or its unique culture, but that's because Thomas puts a lot of time towards fleshing out these characters.
Similar to "Everybody Scream!", Deadstock has a large cast, and not everyone makes it out alive. But while "Everybody Scream" was more cohesive, held together by the strange carnival setting, Deadstock feels less focused. I feel like the two main plots were really great ideas for short novels that were put together to form a full-length novel. They strike different tones. As soon as I started grooving on the hard-boiled detective stuff, the chapter ends and I'm thrown into the survival-horror genre. And vice versa. Plus, those two plots eventually converge. As the demon-god called Dai-oo-ika constantly evolves throughout the story, Stake's missing toy case and the survival of a dozen gangsters suddenly lose weight.
"Everybody Scream!" remains my favorite Jeffrey Thomas book, along with several of his short stories, but Deadstock is still a really good read. Punktown is always a fascinating place, and Deadstock treads new territory as hard sci fi with a soul.
"Beneath Punktown there was, in effect, a shadow version of itself. When they'd run out of room to build sideways or upwards, city planners had looked downwards instead. This underground district had come to be known as Subtown. Its borders were not nearly as extensive as those of the city proper overhead, but it still encompassed a sizeable area.
--The rays of the sun did not reach down here; its citizens, many of whom might not venture aboveground for months at a time, lived and worked under the artificial glow of lamps set into a concrete sky. As evening fell, some of these lamps dimmed and others were shut off completely, to give something of the effect of night (though Subtown was not made so dark as to give criminals undue cover for their activities). Because of the limits set by the ceiling, buildings were smaller, tending towards flat-roofed tenement structures, often with shops on the ground floor. There were factories and warehouses too, but these had not been safe in their subterranean shelter when financial plagues had swept through the city and manufacturers had migrated in flocks to the Outback Colony or even to overcrowded and much-blighted Earth in a reverse colonization. Wherever labor was cheaper, or perhaps restrictions were laxer about how many living workers companies were required to employ to balance out their automatic laborers whom they didn't have to pay at all."
And like the world, the characters Thomas creates - Jeremy Stake, the face-changing war veteran turned private investigator; John Fukuda, the rich industrialist who hires him to find his daughter's stolen doll; Javier Dias, the leader of the Folger Street Snarlers whose collective fate becomes tangled up in the events that unfold; Thi Gohn, the blue-skinned Ha Jiin 'Earth Killer' - all have texture, depth and history. There are no black and whites here, no simplistic good-guys bad-guys, only shadings of grey where all too flawed - and thus wholly believable - individuals have to deal with their lives, their memories and the consequences of their actions. You really come to care about the characters you meet here, which really raises the stakes in the best way possible.
And I have to mention the Ouija phones. There are a lot of neat concepts and touches that are part of the world of Punktown - deadstock, bioengineered kawaii dolls, Punktown fashion fads, the Blank People, belfs, Decimators - but the Ouija phones are among the coolest, more original ideas I've ever come across. All of its other merits aside, Deadstock is worth reading for the Ouija phones alone.
All in all this was a fast-paced, tightly plotted, and highly enjoyable read that left me wanting more, more of this Punktown universe and of the characters who inhabit it. Highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
I suppose he might not always be a d1ck given this book, what with the chimera shapeshifting thing letting Stake definitely go girly if he...Read more