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Michael Marshall Smith
Bantam Spectra, 400 pages
A review by Rodger Turner

Former cop and soldier Jack Randall has bottomed out. Five years earlier his wife and daugther were slaughtered. He's addicted to Rapt and he's plagued by nightmares of his days of military service in The Gap, a pseudo-real space created by computers where reality is only relative. Now Jack works at the only job still available to him: as a guard at a SPARES farm where bodies are raised to allow for dedicated replacement organs. But things get worse. Jack is on the run with six inmates (well, five and a half). His pursuers want those bodies back; one of them belongs to the daughter of a powerful city boss. In his flight, he bumps into some associates of a crime lord whom he believes killed his family, his best friend -- a cop -- is savagely murdered while working on tracking a serial murderer and Jack's running out of cash. All Jack wants to do is to buy a truck and flee with the farm inmates in order to settle down in Florida. Whaddya think; does he go?

Michael Marshall Smith has a remarkable eye. His writing is starkly visual reminding me of what Blade Runner would be like on speed. He captures the essence of characters with a deft touch, all the while pushing the plot forward with surreal intensity. His characters' emotional entanglements are all too human; nobody wears just a black or just a white hat. They're just trying to survive a bleak future where artifice and distraction seem to be the order of the day. Their society is quite caste-ridden but one can rise and fall within the middle band. I found it all too real; it seems to be where North American society is heading. It scared the pants off me. For there doesn't seem to be any real cohesion. Everyone just moves along with the masses whose capacity to consume is boundless.

I'd heard good buzz about Smith's writing. When a friend went to the UK, one of the books I asked him to find for me was Smith's first, Only Forward. It was breathtaking. I was hooked on Smith's writing. The buzz for Spares was even better. They were right. How can anyone not read a novel that contains the following:

Time to get out of town before I slept with God's wife.
or not laugh aloud after reading:
She was lying spreadeagled on the snow and muttering like a starfish which had woken up much earlier than it wanted.
Michael Marshall Smith is the newest member of my Writer A-List.

Copyright © 1998 by Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time." More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

Michael Marshall Smith
Michael Marshall Smith was born in Cheshire. After spending time in the US, South Africa and Australia, he now lives in London. His first novel, Only Forward, won the BFA in 1995. Spares has been optioned by DreamWorks SKG.

Michael Marshall Smith Website
ISFDB Bibliography

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