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Only Forward
Michael Marshall Smith
Voyager Classics paperback £8.99

review by Debbie Moon

Stark has a rather shaky career as a P.I., an apartment with wonky internal gravity, and the coolest trousers on the planet. He also has another line of work, but that won't rear it's ugly head for a while yet. Right now, he's been employed by Zenda Renn, one of the most ambitious employees of the Department Of Doing Things Especially Quickly, to find a missing executive. Unfortunately, in a city where everyone lives in a district perfectly tailored to suit them - from a permanent state of gang warfare to a district populated entirely by cats - people who break the rules can be hard to track down. And when he does find the errant Alkland, that's just the beginning of a far more complicated mission, involving his other, unique, and insanely dangerous talent...
   It's hard to believe this sprawling, hilarious tale of love and loss and dislocation was Smith's first novel. Starting as a lunatic combination of Raymond Chandler and Douglas Adams, a series of revelations about Stark's past carry us through tragedy to one of the most moving endings in literature. Smith has a rare gift for spotting the absurd in the everyday, and expanding it to mythic proportions, without ever sacrificing our empathy with the all too believable characters. Admittedly, not everyone is going to be able to stomach his relentlessly hip style; if you like your SF technical and deadly serious, this is not the book for you. However, for a book that combines imagination, wit and powerful insight into the nature of love and hate, look no further than this underrated classic.
Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
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