In Gingolaski’s debut sci-fi novel set 71 years in the future, a cab driver/contract vigilante gets in over his head when he rescues a mysterious young woman.
Richard Vandercar works for the Blue Cab Company in Philadelphia. In 2084, that means being more of a freelance cop than a chauffeur. Cab companies compete for contracts from private citizens and the government for killing bad guys (“a standard vermin termination contract”), prisoner transportation and even rescuing kidnapped children. On one job, Vandercar encounters Jeannie Aiken, a pale-skinned young woman with wild black hair and large dark eyes. Sometimes she seems childish—Vandercar even suspects that she has brain damage—but when she’s threatened, she acts like a trained soldier. Vandercar isn’t the kind of man who rescues a girl out of the goodness of his heart. However, he has a strange ability: He can see when someone’s lifeline ends, and Jeannie’s lifeline terminated months ago. “On a few levels that scared the hell out of me and I needed to understand how it was possible,” he explains. When a contract goes out to apprehend Jeannie, Vandercar finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conflict involving a secret government program. Gingolaski writes in the hard-boiled, cynical vein of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; his protagonist inhabits a corrupt world and a dirty city, whose river “is so packed with trash that when local organized crime wants to dump a body in the river, they take along two shovels and a pickaxe….In Philly, even the water is tough.” Everyone is compromised; no one is clean. Readers may find much of this subject matter familiar—not just from the detective genre, but from other pop-cultural sources, such as the films Blade Runner (1982) and The Fifth Element (1997), and, especially, the TV and film work of Joss Whedon. Nevertheless, Gingolaski makes the story his own, bravely refusing to let romanticism win out. In particular, his final sentence is devastating and perfect.
A snappy, exciting novel with plenty of action, sex, cool technology and moral quandary.