AIKI by John Gilbert


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Absurd martial-arts yarn with vague futuristic trappings. It's bread-and-circuses time in the 21 st century: ""sodac,"" a mind-numbing, addictive drug, keeps the population docile and compliant; in the Sport Arena, modern-day gladiators participate in bloody combat for the gratification of the public. Numero Uno in the Arena is the evil Mantis, a charismatic martial-arts expert with hypnotic powers and some sort of connection to the government. Representing the good guys is Capitan, a pacifistic martial-arts expert who's part of some vague resistance movement. In flashbacks, we learn that both Mantis and Capitan (along with two other characters whose presence and roles are never convincingly set forth) were once students of the garrulous sensei Hoshima. There are some complications involving retired Jewish hitman Abe and Hispanic street punk Bimbi. Later, Capitan's trainee (and Abe's ex-client) Sten challenges Mantis and loses. There's mention of astral bodies and reincarnation: Mantis was a threat in the past and apparently threatens the future too. So Capitan himself enters the Arena, kills Mantis, but fails to prevent Mantis' future rebirth--or something. The narrative moves along briskly, but that's about it. The plot makes no sense. The backdrop is invisible. Even the action sequences are a bust. And the philosophy is unreconstructed hokum (""the Truth is so vast and inexplicable that it must be translated in various ways""; ""What we are doing is tending the gardens of our mind"") and sometimes unintentionally ludicrous (""Just as the astronaut wears leaden boots to approximate gravity, so too does the mind create ethics to pinion itself to reality""). Pretentious drivel.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Donald Fine