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Book Review: Plastic Jesus by Wayne Simmons

“A fun-fuelled high-octane thrill ride!”

51N+EitF4eLWayne Simmons’ bestselling novel Flu was serialised by Sirius XM’s Book Radio, and spawned a sequel – Fever. His work has since been published in the U.K, Austria, Germany, Spain, Turkey and North America. Here, he steps away from his horror writing roots and turns his hand to sci-fi, but can he pull it off?

Plastic Jesus is the story of a futuristic America. An America changed by a Holy War. The Great War has created a Godless world where religion ceases to exist. Bombs have been dropped, punching a hole in the Middle East, turning the likes of Israel, Iraq and Iran into the Barrenlands, where the popular gameshow, Deathstar, is a huge success. The show sees celebrities navigating lethal obstacle courses for the entertainment of the masses.

Maalside, once part of the US colonies, stands separated from the mainland by 200 miles. The NewRepublic, with LarkCity serving as its formidable capital, is rammed full of corruption and sin. The lawless run the dirty streets and virtual reality is king.

Simmons’ writing is excellent and transports the reader beautifully to Maalside’s neon naughtiness. The descriptions of the classy establishments and dank watering holes are fantastic, along with subsidiary characters such as Rudlow, the good cop/bad cop, King and Kenny, two druggy dropouts, and Kitty, the part-time thieving whore and daughter of McBride, a tough nut gangster who smuggles Grade A Heroin into Lark.

“Rudlow suspected that the bears held something more sinister than fibre in their fluffy bellies: Grade A Heroin, the last drug to remain illegal in Maalside.”

Johnny Lyon, the protagonist, works for Alt Corp as a VR code guy. The corporation is huge, located in the ‘better’ part of Lark City and run by business tycoon, Garcon. We first meet Johnny at his dying wife’s hospital bedside. After she dies, Johnny falls into a pit of despair. He turns to drink, avoiding work and contact with others at all costs, as he tries to piece himself back together.

“His eyes moved back to the bottle. He could see his own silhouette in the dark brown glass; his head swollen up like something from a funhouse mirror. Dark rings circled his eyes. His hair was unkempt and long. The bottle was his mistress and she weren’t keeping him like she should.”

Sarah, Johnny’s work colleague and friend, can’t seem to find it within her to abandon him at his lowest ebb, and fights to keep him afloat. She persuades Mr. Garcon to give Johnny one last chance. Garcon decides he’ll use Johnny in the corporation’s newest project, which aims to relaunch and rebrand religion using a virtual reality Jesus. Something goes wrong. The code which Johnny creates while still under the influence of grief and Jack Daniels turns out to be corrupted. It grows in VR realm, causing all sorts of violence to spill out onto the streets of Lark City, which could potentially tear Maalside apart. If the drink, drugs and/or whoring don’t get you in Maalside, then the world of VR will.

Plastic Jesus is a fun-fuelled, high-octane thrill ride, packed full of destruction. The story often blurs the line between reality and virtual reality, and offers lashings of dark humour. The Emerald Isle writer holds nothing back in this stylish not-so-distant-future novel, echoing films such as Blade Runner, Inception, Mad Max and Total Recall. The use of a celebrity gameshow throughout will invoke memories of The Running Man. If you haven’t read anything by Simmons, this is a good place to start – an exhilarating read from start to finish.

DAVID OWAIN HUGHES

Publisher: Salt Publishing
Paperback (248pp)
Release Date: 30 November 2013

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