Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Clone City by Mike Hembury (#cyberpunk #mystery #genderbending)

New Clone City is a book that was pitched to me as "a blend of cyberpunk, literary prose and thrilling mystery . . . with a host of genderfluid characters who are fun, fierce and authentic (and sexy)." Really, how could I possibly resist that?

To be honest, the style of Mike Hembury's novel was not initially to my taste, and that is why it has taken me so long to finish reading it. Much of it is written in present-tense, and it tends to bounce between short, staccato statements and long, dense blocks of rambling text. It is a unique style, and not one that lends itself to a quick or easy read.

While I am tempted to call this a dystopian science fiction tale, that is only half of the story. It is dystopian, and very much so, especially in terms of the city itself and the community that resides there. Hatred, intolerance, prejudice, discrimination, and violence continue to poison the human landscape, with some particularly gruesome acts of violence punctuating the text.
"Walk around the NC, and you will see what I mean. Ethnicities from all over the planet rub along together, women can walk the streets at night unmolested, dykes and faggots can be found sharing the same streets with fundamentalists of all persuasions. Such is the reputation of the NC, such are its forms of social interaction. And it is this cultural ballast which forms a heavy counterweight to our society’s need for fundamental change."
That, from a scene where a black ops monster looking to undermine the city attempts to motivate the darkest temperament of his recruits.

And yet, almost against all odds, there are glimmers of hope, understanding, and acceptance. There are good people, doing good things, sometimes even despite their beliefs. There are dangerous situations that are revealed to be safe havens, and angry confrontations that turn out to be well-mannered negotiations.
"It’s not often you’ll see a congregation of the Muslim faithful handing over a six-foot semi-conscious transvestite to a carload of militant queer prostitutes wielding baseball bats. For the mosque security detail, this is certainly the first time that they’ve had a bunch of sexy genderbending mommas come up to the gates of their prayer house wielding billy clubs, but they are more intrigued than anything else, and are keeping a remarkably worldly cool about the whole thing."
That, from a scene where a group of Muslim men comes to the rescue of a violently abused transgender prostitute, taking her into their mosque, tending her wounds, and calling her people for help.

On that note, this is a book that flirts with some uncomfortable terminology at times, and which is frustratingly inconsistent with its choice of pronouns, but it is never cruel or mean-spirited. Instead, those seeming miscues are part and parcel of the book's punk, in-your-face, I-dare-you-to-get-mad edginess. Gender and sexuality are a critical part of the book, and not just as a good-queer versus evil-straight fairytale, which makes it even more interesting.

New Clone City does have a story - a conflict/conspiracy, a resistance, and a feminine Church that has nothing to do with god - but it is more a story of characters, a slice of life through which we see friendships tested, love found, and principles defended. Not the easiest read, but a worthy one.
Mike Hembury is an Anglo-Berliner originally from Portland, England. He's a writer, translator, musician, coder, sailor, environmentalist, and guitar nerd in no particular order.


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