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Monday, January 25, 2010

“Pleasure Model” by Christopher Rowley (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Christopher Rowley Website
Order “Pleasure ModelHERE
Read Excerpts HERE
Watch the Book Trailer HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Christopher Rowley is a prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy including the Compton Crook Award-winning “The War for Eternity”, “Starhammer”, “Bazil Broketail”, the Books of Arna trilogy, etc. He also co-wrote two television animated series by Robert Mandell, and is the author of the illustrated novel “Arkham Woods”.

PLOT SUMMARY: In “Pleasure Model”, the first volume in the Netherworld Trilogy, Senior Investigating Officer of Homicide, Rook Venner, is assigned to a bizarre and vicious murder case. The clues are colder than the corpse and the case looks like it’ll remain unsolved—until an eyewitness is discovered. But the witness is a Pleasure Model, an illegal gene-grown human. Plesur’s only purpose is to provide satisfaction to her owner—in any way.

When the murderer targets Plesur in order to eliminate the one witness, Rook takes her into hiding to protect her. Thus begins a descent into the dark world of exotic pleasure mods and their illicit buyers and manufacturers. Rook frantically searches for clues, struggling to stay one step ahead of those looking to kill them both. But is Rook falling under Plesur’s spell….?

FORMAT/INFO:Pleasure Model” is 240 pages long divided over twenty-one chapters. Each chapter includes 25-30 b&w illustrations (see example below) provided by comic book artist Justin Norman (Elephantman, Justice League). Narration is in the third person via SIO Rook Venner and the dominatrix Mistress Julia/Angie. “Pleasure Model” is the first volume in the Netherworld Trilogy, and ends on an unresolved note.

February 2, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of “Pleasure Model” via Tor. Cover art provided by Gregory Manchess. ARC provided by the publisher upon request.

ANALYSIS: Apart from watching the movies, browsing through a few issues of the magazine, and being a huge fan of Luis Royo, I have only a passing familiarity with Heavy Metal. All the same, I was immediately intrigued by Heavy Metal Pulp—“a new line of novels combining noir fiction with fantastic art featuring the themes, story lines, and graphic styles of Heavy Metal magazine.” Christopher Rowley’sPleasure Model” is the first offering from Heavy Metal Pulp, and for the most part, the novel delivers on its promise of noir, Heavy Metal style, and fantastic artwork...

Stylistically, “Pleasure Model” mixes pulp fiction, noir, cyberpunk and a dash of erotica—Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, I, Robot, and Aeon Flux were just a few of the things that came to mind when reading the book—for an experience that is instantly familiar. Exhibit A, the futuristic setting (New York, 2060) with artificial intelligences like Rook’s Nokia Supa named Ingrid, bioengineered humans (pleasure mods), enhancement chips, robotics, and neat gadgets like smart-mirrors that detect a person’s mood and show them want they want to see. Then there are the recognizable character types (femme fatales and a Chandleresque protagonist), well-trodden themes (humanity, playing god), and a plot that starts out simple, but then develops into something much more complex and dangerous for the heroes. In this case, a simple murder investigation evolving into a deadly conspiracy involving everything from law enforcement bureaucracy, government politics, dark military secrets, and the most powerful organization in the country to the criminal underworld, invisible assassination squads, and the former president of the United States. In short, “Pleasure Model” is a book that unabashedly wears its influences on its sleeve, but because of Christopher Rowley’s more than competent prose, breakneck pacing, and cinematic storytelling, “Pleasure Model” is entertaining nonetheless.

That said, don’t expect a lot of depth from the book. “Pleasure Model” is only 240 pages long, and a lot of that is because of the illustrations. So in reality, the book is no more than a novella, or one-third of a regular-sized novel. As a result, there’s not a lot of time to flesh out characters/settings, explore themes, or develop plotlines. Thankfully, it’s easy to ignore the size of “Pleasure Model” and just enjoy the action-packed ride, even though the book was over long before I wanted it to be.

As far as the artwork, Justin Norman’s illustrations are hit or miss. For the most part, the sketches are well-drawn and add texture to the book, but there are times when the PG illustrations would clash with the R-rated story rather than complement it. Also, the placement of illustrations was sometimes off, with the pictures depicting a scene that hadn’t happened yet in the text, thus ruining a surprising turn of events. Overall though, I really enjoyed the abundant use of illustrations in a prose novel, and hope it’s something that will catch on with more authors and publishers.

CONCLUSION: Christopher Rowley’sPleasure Model” is all-too-brief, treads over familiar territory, and is lacking in depth, but thanks to skillful writing, non-stop excitement, and Justin Norman’s artwork, I had a total blast reading “Pleasure Model”. In the end, I can’t wait to finish the Netherworld Trilogy and look forward to checking out more books from Heavy Metal Pulp...


Gary Baumgarten said...

Heavy Metal publisher Kevin Eastman will be my guest on News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network at 5 PM NY time Wednesday March 3 to talk about Pleasure Model.

You are invited to chat with him then and ask him any question you’d like. Please to to to join the chat.




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