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Rating: 4 of 5 stars
For starters, I want to establish that I haven’t completed the whole series; however, that is not an accurate gauge of my reaction to this trilogy. It’s just that I bought the thing in its entirety instead of individually (as I prefer to read books in the same series) and tried to tough it all out in one go.
It’s taken me long enough to get to Dead Things, and the backlog of books I have lined up for myself has become daunting. So, on that note, I retire this series until sometime a little later down the line.
On to the juicy parts.
This extraordinary trilogy depicts a future gender war that crosses the boundaries of software, wetware, time, and reality itself in its imaginative leaps and bounds. Only love holds the future together in this tale of star-crossed teens whose transformations defy description or imagination.
To read this trilogy is to behold a strange new world, one unlike any other.
I first read Dead Boys in 2009 while I was still in high school, and I could not put it down for the life of me. (I even took it on a vacation to Austin.)
When I finished, years passed before I realized it was the second in a trilogy, and desperate to rekindle any hope I had in humanity that had been depleted by reading too much bullshit, I dove headfirst into Richard Calder’s (only?) trilogy. It begins with Dead Girls.
Nanoengineers have unleashed machine consciousness. Revenge does not account for it: Something infinitely more sinister has happened. Only Primavera and mad Ignatz Zwakh know what power is really behind the microbiotic army dedicated to overthrowing the human gamete. But Primavera’s dying. Can they reach Dr. Toxicopholous before the CIA or the pornocrat Kito or their combined assassins and nanomachines reach them?
In Dead Girls, Ignatz Zwakh lives in a highly technological world powered by fear, sex and death. A plague that corrupts young girls by turning them into Lilim–vampiric nanoengineered dead girls–has swept the globe one metamorphosis at a time. Ignatz, as a schoolboy, falls in love with a Lilim, Primavera. Together, they discover the truth and tragedy behind the plague.
By the time I got around to reading Dead Girls, Dead Boys was a far-off memory that vaguely reminded me of women dying on spikes, perverse sex-driven deaths, stylistic prose and green. Dead Girls was a far cry from my recollection but not in an unpleasant way. Ignatz’s appetite for disaster is so prevalent throughout that, even though the chapters alternate between the past and the present, I can’t help but want the same even as I watch its dire consequences. The history and evolution of the world’s reaction to the plague felt real and concise. The Human Front, which stands against these young women who use men to pass on their tainted genes, sounds as plausible as any.
Not to discount the strangeness of it all, though.
Cruel Hospitals where Lilim-in-progress are sent by frightened parents; overzealous schoolboys who learn from bad examples and torture for fun; propaganda and escape; the pornocracy of the Big Weird, the life and city that Iggy had followed the woman he loves into; dead girls with gingivitis, hemline psychosis, vagina dentata and a sordid desire to die at the hands of a man mid-orgasm…
That’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Shells burst behind my eyes; I was her beachhead, first blood in a guerrilla war against humanity. Fifth columnists leaped from her spittle, a microrobotic army dedicated to overthrowing my gametes. They infiltrated in their billions. Ignoring Y, digging into X, they would wait, wait for me to fill a human womb so that they might stage their coup and set up a puppet government.
A blue-white flash.
Tombstones. The coach. The fall of night.
Primavera was eating my brain.
I awoke from post-coital sleep on the hard floor of the pavilion, my head rich with traces of midsummer dreams.
–Dead Girls, p. 24-25
Oh, this is a dirty ride. Filthy, nasty and crazy. I loved every minute of it. And, as provided by the excerpt above, the writing was marvelous to boot. It’s unapologetic in its use of the unconventional, the frowned-upon, and that’s the kind of thing I admire. Not included were the Francophilic and Asian (Thai?) cordon sanitaires and klongs, etc. They can be hard to read around if you know nothing about any language other than English or how to use context clues; most are, though, pretty transparent. Such as:
Bond Street was a desert of broken glass and gutted shopfronts, a desecrated memorial to the belle époque. Primavera rescued some tattered couture from the gutter. She held it up, gauging its appeal.
-Dead Girls, p. 61
What begins as a simple story of one young man’s attempt to escape a life he doesn’t know to get on without quickly transmogrifies into a series of discoveries that all lead back to sex–and death.
Dead Boys is nothing like its predecessor. It’s denser, more intricate, less dialogue-heavy and much, much darker.
Ignatz Zwakh lives in a strange world. Dead Girls, the genetically recombined doll-girls designed by Dr. Tocixophilous, have now mated with humans to form a new subspecies. Meta, the parasitic cyborgs who resulted, have carried the new genus into space. Mars has been colonized and in its most decadent city, Paris, marauding Elohim strive to execute the traitorous Dead Girls. Bangkok swelters from its sex bars to its alleyways with the strange sexuality the future has brought. The future has begun to invade the past and reality shifts and shimmers as the Meta wage their war. Ignatz Zwakh is a very strange man in a very strange world.
Six months after the death of his love, Ignatz has become a true doll junkie–he takes injections of pure allure, a mystical substance at every Lilim’s disposal, from the disembodied sex organs of his long-lost dead girl, Primavera. It is through this “CPU” that he receives a letter from his daughter, Vanity St. Viridiana, in a future where she is hunted–and by none other than himself; a future where Primavera and Ignatz were never lovers but siblings; a future where a man named Dagon is terrorizing dead girls in only the way a dead boy can.
…If men turn girls into cats, cats turn men into marauders…
That’s right. Dead Boys is about none other than our favorite marauder, Ignatz Zwakh, as he struggles to keep his head–and reality–straght, even taking up on Mars and taking up with a human.
It can get confusing if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, but it’s not terribly difficult. Harder than Dead Girls, yes, but not a deduction point. As I said before, it’s dense. The first page is one long paragraph, and–being honest here–most of the pages are made up of big, long paragraphs. But it’s worth the eyesore because we learn so much about the world through it. It’s dark, green, sex, death, technology, cyberawesome, blood, time-travelish and even more green still. And there are Elohim–male counterparts to Lilim; reactive forces, almost. They are perfect solutions to girls who weeks death–boys who seek to kill girls who seek death.
As in Dead Girls, the writing is so powerful, so rich, so individual and so fuckin beautiful that I continually drool over it. My personal favorite quote ever of all time in life belongs to Dead Boys, in fact–
Today the city melted in a heat wave. The crystal skyscrapers glittered like knives (this is a city of knives), steel-and-glass blades inlaid with the reflections of other knives, mirrors within mirrors within mirrors, knives that thrust up at the scorched clouds, presaging that evening’s little death… As always, beneath the vaulted brilliance the infernal shadows of the streets were filled with the phantoms of murdered girls.
–Dead Boys, p. 240
The skyway was a convolvulus of shadows, a helix entwining a ziggurat of smoked glass from penthouse to the killing ground of the streets.
-Dead Boys, p. 152
Yep. :D If you’re expecting something like Dead Girls or lighter, you may be disappointed by how heavy Dead Boys is. However, if you’re like me, and you live for this shit, and appreciate the sick, twisted universe of these Dead things, then dive right in.
Having completed his trip around the universe, Dagon (also know as Ignatz Zwakh) returns to Earth to plant a Reality Bomb that will wipe out the plague of Meta (which turns teenage girls into Dead Girls). Unfortunately, Dagon himself has set loose forces that are collapsing both time and space upon itself, turning his simple mission into a fun-house-mirrored tour through identity, reality, and undying love.
Speaking of dead things, the last of the trilogy lost me about 4 chapters in. Not that anything’s wrong–I’m just tired of it. It’s even more confusing and warped than Dead Boys and no less imaginative. Give it a shot if you enjoyed the other two Deads. As for me, I shall have to return another time (and, with glee, I someday will); until then, I leave you with this dazzling quote from Dead Things:
I look down at her in contempt, my whole body tumescent, unappeasable, head, torso, arms and legs in riotous sympathy with a penis hard as rock; a penis harder, indeed, than it has been thousands of years, my permanent, intransigent erection growing in exponential relation to my cruelty, a penis that is now, surely, a googolplex of a penis. A penis^100.
No respite for the wicked.
-Dead Things, p. 275