Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: 'Farewell Horizontal' by K. W. Jeter

4 / 5 Stars

‘Farewell Horizontal’ (237 pp.) was published by Signet in November 1989; the cover artist is uncredited.
The Cylinder is an immense building, miles high and miles in circumference, built long ago by a polity no longer remembered. Within, the population labors at mundane pursuits, factory jobs, and dull administrative tasks. True nonconformists make for the ‘Vertical’, the outside of the Cylinder, where the metal surface is intagliated with a network of grids and attachment points for high-tech ‘pithons', retractable Smart Cables that extrude from one’s boots and belt to anchor one safely to the wall. An entire society of ‘Mad Max’ – style warring gangs, scavengers, and thrill seekers wander the vast expanse of the surface of the Cylinder, only their slings and pithons keeping them from falling miles downward to the mysterious cloud layer masking the lower regions of the Cylinder.
Ny Axxter earns a living as a Graffex artist out on the surface, designing and applying icons, military regalia, and totems for the various lower-league gangs operating on the Vertical. It’s not an easy life, and Ny is always looking for the one major contract that will fill his bank account. When he gets word that the Havoc Mass, one of the two largest paramilitary forces in control of the top portion of the Cylinder, is looking for a Graffex artist to revamp their image, it’s the break Ny needs to get into the big time.
The Havoc Mass are indeed pleased with his work….but when one deals with the movers and shakers on the Vertical, one gets caught up in the turf wars and conspiracies that come with being among the powerful and ambitious. Ny soon discovers that he’s in over his head, and running for his life beyond the morningside of the Cylinder to the little-explored eveningside, where lurk the dreaded Dead Center tribes….and perhaps things much, much worse…..
‘Farewell Horizontal’ has an original, cool concept for its core. The world of the Vertical is consistently interesting and full of surprises. Ny is no superman, and occasionally rather too mercenary for his own good, but he remains an engaging character, as do the various other personalities he comes across in his travels on the surface. The chapter dealing with the Havoc Mass encampment is genuinely funny, but author Jeter is also adept at writing believable action sequences.
‘Farewell’ stands as a good example of late 80s cyberpunk, where traditional SF world-building melds neatly with the more traditional concepts- ‘jacking in’, virtual reality, wet-wired interfaces - of the cyberpunk genre.

1 comment:

MPorcius said...

This actually sounds like something I would like to read, even though I have never really been interested in cyberpunk. I think I will keep an eye out for it at used bookstores. Than for alerting me to it.