Date finished: July 18th 2016
Back when I was a bookseller I had the opportunity to apply for proof versions and advanced copies of new and upcoming books. One of them was Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits. I can’t claim to have found the name all that enthralling, it was the author that clinched it for me. David Wong is perhaps best known as the author of the insane horror-comedy novel John Dies at the End. JDATE, as it’s known to fans (and to the confusion of Jewish singles), was a fantastically original, clever and enjoyable thriller which I’d highly recommend to people who consider themselves somewhat nerdy. It was on the weight of JDATE alone that I applied for a copy of Futuristic Violence….
Skip to nearly a year later and, unable to concentrate in the summer’s heat, I perused the To-Be-Read pile for something relatively easy and my eyes settled on the neglected novel in question. I hadn’t even a clue what it was about beyond the title phrase, but I gave it a shot anyway.
In order that you can be more informed than me: Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits follows Zoey Ashe, a young barista living in a trailer park with her mum in the near-future. A man with ridiculous strength and metal jaws is watching her through the window and fully intends to eat her bones whilst transmitting the event to thousands of watchers on the internet live-stream service, Blink.
From this strange start, Zoey is transported into the strange world of Tabula Ra$a, a lawless, futuristic city in the desert where her biological father, who recently died in a warehouse explosion, was once a rich and important figure. His estate has been left to Zoey, who with the aid of her father’s ragtag clan of helpers, must quickly learn to handle her new situation, because, though her father may be gone, his enemies are still very much alive…
On the surface, Futuristic Violence… is a mad and nerdy thriller that revels in techno-babble, silly sex jokes and a surfeit of plot twists. And as much as that’s all great fun, there’s more than meets the eye going on here. With a subtle, satirical eye, Wong has created an intriguing premise in the concepts of Tabula Ra$a and Blink. Tabula Ra$a is like New York’s Time Square multiplied: screens on every building, adverts all over, technology dominating every aspect of life thanks to its connection with Blink, the live-streaming service that’s an inspired satire of social media sites; everyone obsessed with finding an interesting event they can live-stream from their glasses in order to receive as much attention as possible. Blink exposes the addictive and insidious sides of social media to the cold light of day.
The characters too are an interesting bunch, from the drip-fed development of deceased eccentric, Arthur Livingston, to the unlikely heroine-status of Zoey, Wong packs a surprising amount of depth into a relatively large cast, taking a B-movie plot and injecting it with some much-needed layers.
Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits is an entertaining romp through a world which can often overshadow its events, but the various twists and turns, and the occasional laugh make up for the few failings to be found in its pages. Like a middling Marvel movie, it’s not going to change your life or stand-out as the movie of the year but it’s more than entertaining enough to keep you gripped for the duration.