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Atom
Steve Aylett
Four Walls Eight Windows hardcover $14.95

review by Amy Harlib

British author of 'slipstream', avant-garde SF, Steve Aylett, with many previous books under his belt and whose reputation for outrageousness precedes him, does it again! Atom, a recent novel (in print and readily available), definitely lives up to expectations.
   The protagonist, Mr Taffy Atom, a private detective of an unconventional and eccentric sort, comes with a sidekick who's even weirder: Jed Helms, a voraciously vicious human personality somehow grafted onto a souped-up brain in the body of a giant goldfish! The near-future setting, as in Aylett's novel Slaughtermatic, features the city of 'Beerlight' that "sprawls like roadkill". The plot is a bit thin, but then the book's length is only 137 pages, takes Atom on a mission to trace a missing brain that vanished the night the City Brain Facility blew up and the grey matter that's gone belongs to none other than Tony Curtis. A motley crew of bizarre gangsters will do anything to see that Atom, his gorgeous, smart and tough girlfriend Madison Drowner and Jed Helms don't succeed.
   Aylett's books do not provide reading for depth of character, intense emotional subtlety or intricate background descriptions - rather, the reading experience resembles a manic anime noir where the imagery dominates - stark and startling, with satirically over-the-top metaphors abounding and the pacing lightning-swift, cutting from one scene to the next almost too fast to follow. Yet the clever and witty language carries the reader happily along for the mad car-chase of a ride in order to encounter bits like this: "Industrial gothic was tempered by Bren Shui, the art of exchanging negative energy with the environment through the correct placement of firearms around the house." Laugh out loud moments of this sort are to be found on practically every page of Atom for Aylett definitely delivers outrageousness.
   Everything in the book, extreme to the max, borders on caricature: Atom, the ultimate cynical wise guy gumshoe; Madison, the smart-mouthed babe; Jed Helms, surreal and bizarre; Joanna, the hulking, amusingly dumb henchman, that's right, man; and then there's the fiendish mastermind behind it all, Candyman, not to mention a whole bevy of colourful supporting characters. Everyone talks in the snappy patter of the author's slangy dialogue (warning - contains curse words), voices that dominate the text and propel the story.
   Atom, wild and crazy and funny, replete with satirical allusions to much of contemporary and current pop-cultural trends - all extrapolated to the mind-stretching limits, makes for a high energy romp that's very hard to beat!
Atom

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