This book was low-key aggravating. The plot was interesting enough that I wanted to keep going, but the characters were unlikeable enough that I almost gave up on it several times. Spoilers ahead, because nobody else should bother with this weirdness.
I picked this one up at a used bookstore because it had a complimentary quote from China Mieville on the cover. You let me down, China! I read very few male authors anymore, and this book reminded me why.
A former soldier turned private detective is hired by a very rich man to find his teen daughter’s missing “kawaii doll,” a genetically engineered doll creature that’s not supposed to be able to move or think independently. It’s like a sort-of-alive Tamagotchi egg or whatever. The daughter is super spoiled and goes to an all-girls school with the traditional schoolgirl uniform, even though this is a bazillion years in the future and on another planet. MULTIPLE men throughout the book, including our ostensible hero Jeremy Stake, mentally pat themselves on the back for resisting the temptation to let their attention wander to her legs for too long, despite the obvious temptation of the flirty CHILD and her tiny skirt. There’s even a sidebar about a new fad where all the young businessmen are using USED TEENAGER PANTIES as pocket squares in their fancy suits. So. Good to know that a bazillion years in the future, patriarchy still reigns.
A homeless man wanders the sub-city. Two gangs of street toughs find themselves trapped in an empty apartment complex by AI creatures gone mad. Private eye Jeremy has some flashbacks to a war in another dimension where he had a questionable relationship with a woman his squad took prisoner. She didn’t speak English and all the other soldiers were threatening to kill her, but sure, it was consensual, right?? Oh, his poor tortured conscience!
The weaving together of all the different threads was interesting, leading up to what could have been a pretty cool climax. The doll (SPOILER!!!) turns out to have been planted by a crazy cult trying to design a being that is basically Cthulhu to destroy the world. Pretty much everybody who comes into contact with it dies horribly, and it keeps growing and absorbing and killing. The gang kids get some explosives to take on the building-sized monster to avenge their fallen friends. It was going to get epic! And then…Cthulhu-doll eats his teenage mother, gets a conscience, gets suicidal, and lets himself get blown up. The end. What.
Glimmers of some interesting ideas in there, but way too much macho bullshit, and then a complete non-ending. Harrumph.