NOIR by KW Jeter

Book Reviews
NOIR by KW Jeter
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Sep 1, 1999, 06:39

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NOIR by K.W. Jeter; Bantam Spectra, 1999

Imagine a future in which people make their livings from selling their own ideas, and if you steal the content of the “intellectual property” of another, the punishment is death. However, in this future world, death, as we know it—non-being—is a privilege and if you're caught pirating copies of, say, a long out-of-print novel, you may find your brain and spinal cord dissected from your body and transformed into a toaster, or a length of high quality audio cable as a living, conscious trophy of your misdeed. This is the world of Noir, the latest science fiction novel by renowned author K.W. Jeter.

The main character, Mcnihil, used to work as an operative for the Collection Agency, a branch of government that is solely devoted to copyright fraud. Having years before led a failed operation into the Wedge, a carnal zone of pleasure populated by Prowlers, i.e., human replicants programmed for pleasure, Mcnihil is lured back into the apocalyptic underworld of Los Angeles and the case of a murdered Jr. executive of the Dynazabel Corporation.

Downloaded confessions, “professional” children, emails that fly through the air and are caught by hand, an ex-wife who is officially dead but lives on in a physical “indeadted” state (due to an unpaid debt she carried while living), tattoos that travel underneath the skin and stimulate specific areas of the brain, and so on. As McNihil moves deeper into the Web, the implications of a society dependent on intellectual property become clearer and much scarier.

Jeter's powerful imagination propels this dark and oddly disorienting story and Noir is unlike anything I've ever read.

-Wade Iverson

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