THE WEIRD CYBERPUNK MISADVENTURE OF A KICK-ASS HEROINE
Bizarre shenanigans ensue in a future where the media don’t just report the news; they orchestrate it. It’s good for ratings.
(Parrish Plessis Trilogy, Book 1)
Marianne De Pierres
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
Date: 15th January 2004
At its core, the first book of the Parrish Plessis trilogy is a cyberpunk thriller (at least it starts out that way) set in a near future, dystopian Australia. A setting which is not ruled by a militaristic totalitarian regime, or even a capricious, amoral mega-corporation, but by an all-pervasive and powerful media. Not content with just reporting the news, these media organisations have taken to creating, shaping and controlling the people’s everyday reality; it’s good for ratings.
It’s against this background that Nylon Angel introduces its protagonist, Parrish Plessis, a giant of a woman―good with her feet and fists―who has spent the last three years earning a living as a bodyguard in The Tert, (a sprawling network of ramshackle villas and slums built upon the toxic wasteland outside the city limits of Vivacity).
Much to her displeasure, Parrish is currently an employee of Jamon Mondo, a leading figure of The Tert’s criminal underworld; at least in theory she’s an employee. The harsh reality is that Parrish is little more than a paid slave and unwilling sexual plaything, and she wants out. The trouble is, while killing Jamon would be very easy for Parrish, doing so would mean spending the rest of her short life looking over her shoulder, waiting for Jamon’s genetically modified minions to avenge their master’s death.
The story begins on the day that opportunity knocks for Parrish. Celebrity news anchorwoman, Razz Retribution, is murdered in a professional hit―a major incident, as no one fucks with the media and lives long enough to regret it. Word on the street is that the death is the work of the Cabal Coomera, but the nerdy suspect that the media are hunting for, is merely an expendable patsy that they have setup.
The Cabal Coomera is a shadowy organisation who wield the most power and influence in The Tert, while remaining unseen. If Parrish can join their ranks she would finally be able to escape Jamon’s clutches, without fear of retaliation. But first she has to locate the murder suspect―before the media can apprehend him and publicly eliminate him live on TV―and hope that his memories will help her track down the Cabal Coomera.
Shortly after deciding to pursue the Cabal Coomera angle, Parrish is presented with a second opportunity, courtesy of Io Lang, a rival crime-lord to Jamon Mondo. Lang wants to hire Parrish to break into an address in Vivacity, access the computer there, and copy all the files on it. Initially, Parrish isn’t enthusiastic about accepting the job, but once Lang informs her that the contents of those files will put Jamon Mondo on death row, she is sold.
If Nylon Angel had followed its initial simple premise―Parrish Plessis pursuing the opportunities to free herself from Jamon Mondo’s employ―it could have made for a very good novel. Unfortunately, the author decides to unnecessarily overcomplicate matters; going off on wild tangents in the process.
I actually do enjoy intricately woven plots with lots of unexpected twists and turns―with the proviso that they are executed well; but this is not the case with Nylon Angel, however. About halfway through the book, the narrative starts to stray far from its initial premise, until it quickly descends into an incoherent mish-mash of genetically and cybernetically modified freaks; religious devotion; urban gang-warfare; illegal medical experimentation; supernatural visions; feral street children; a bodyguard turned messianic saviour; warmongering parasitic lifeforms; and a shape-shifting criminal “mastermind”.
Nylon Angel’s inconsistent narrative is not its only weakness. World building is an important element of any speculative fiction, and Nylon Angel falls down in this area also. It’s not so much that Nylon Angel is lacking in respect of its world building, it’s more that Marianne De Pierres’ prose just isn’t strong enough to bring the story’s setting to life. Subsequently, at no point in the book does it really feel like events are unfolding in a post-apocalyptic future.
Sometimes a strong ensemble of compelling characters can make up for flaws in a book’s narrative, but Nylon Angel doesn’t have any; even protagonist, Parrish Plessis, fails to impress. At a time when “kick-ass” heroines in science fiction and fantasy are ten-a-penny, Parrish is rather unremarkable to say the least. She is easily played and manipulated throughout the story, and it’s doubtful whether she would anticipate the duplicity and double-crossing of the bad guys, even if they had “I am not to be trusted” tattooed on their foreheads.
In summation, it would be easy to dismiss Nylon Angel as a title to be avoided, but the truth is that it is still an entertaining read in spite of its shortcomings; just not one that will live long in the memory.
If you have a day or two to spare for a quick and easy book to read, you could do a lot worse than Nylon Angel. However, if you want to read a cyberpunk tale done right, check out Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon.
Telling it like it is. Giving you honest and balanced, spoiler free reviews. Completely devoid of irrational fanboyism, or shameless astroturfing.