In Quine’s sci-fi tale, a game designer, aided by the physical manifestations of his game characters, fights back against a company trying to sabotage his work.
Jaymi Peek’s programming skills land him a gig at a games development company—Bang Dead Games. But his high-position LA job is soon less than ideal. He realizes that Bang Dead favors profit over originality, often sparking trite concepts. He calls the ones responsible for this nose dive “the Dreary Ones.” Jaymi leaves to design his own games, but when a drone invades his property on Electra Drive, he assumes it’s a personal attack by the Dreary Ones. Conceptualizing and coding a character, or Beast, from one of his games-in-progress, Jaymi gives life to Amber, a male (in appearance) who literally crawls out of a computer monitor into “meat-space.” As Jaymi develops additional Beasts, including Evelyn and Shigem, the Dreary Ones continue their affronts, attempting to infect code or damage the Beasts’ code. Consequently, Jaymi sends Beast incarnations after the Dreary Ones (one attack involves a cockroach). Soon the physical confrontations move into the digital realm. Jaymi targets in particular Bang Dead’s tawdry game Ain’tTheyFreaky!, an open platform in which the public votes on certain people’s attractiveness or lack thereof. Hoping to counter the ugliness this game inflicts upon the world, Jaymi relentlessly battles the Dreary Ones, a war that ultimately intensifies when at least one individual winds up dead.
Quine’s novel centers more on an interesting cast than fascinating sci-fi traits. Some characters are computer code in bodily form but still have depth. For example, Jaymi created Kim, in part, to be Shigem’s lover. (A nice touch: both Beasts are male.) There’s likewise a rather sublime religious theme. Though one Beast kneels in prayer in front of “his creator,” Jaymi, there’s an understated notion of free will. Jaymi assigns missions to Beasts (e.g., wreak havoc on Bang Dead) but often leaves them “to [their] own devices.” The author’s lyrical prose is profound and sometimes surreal, especially in character descriptions. “Inside Kim,” Quine writes, “there is a lonely savage from the caves, bent on pure first-degree survival, blown by chance and the primal drives of instinct and emotion, alone and uncertain on a dart from birth to death.” The plot, however, can grow repetitive. Every new Beast design leads to Bang Dead’s attempt to hack the code, and large sections of narrative repeat. This book is a prequel to the author’s earlier works whose titles are the same as Jaymi’s prospective games, and the ending neatly sets up the succeeding installment.
Unhurried but engrossing novel in which characters are more enticing than otherworldly technology.