(Pocket Books, £6.99, 377 pages, paperback, first published 1998,
this edition published 1 March 2004.)
At last, Jon Courtenay Grimwood's current publishers are able to re-issue
this highly-regarded author's earlier works (first published in the
UK by a different company); they're stylishly re-packaged, and give
readers who have discovered Grimwood through his recent Arabesks series
a chance to see what else he can do. And about time too.
Despite its title, Lucifer's Dragon is no High Fantasy bookshelf-buster:
it's a high-octane, streetwise, technologically-sophisticated thriller.
Or, pretty much, what we used to call cyberpunk: wired up street kids,
physically modified bodyguards and assassins (usually female, often
Asian or oriental), world-weary, drugged out cyber-gangsters... all
doing battle in the international warground of the megacorporations.
Lucifer's Dragon wears its cyberpunk credentials proudly: we
have Razz, the silver-skinned, physically augmented bodyguard to the
Doge -- a child who is pivotal in the ruling structure of the CySat
media megacorp; we have artificial intelligences running heavyweight
defence networks, kids who can hack into top grade computer systems,
street gangs with a range of outlandish physical modifications. And
So it would be easy to dismiss Lucifer's Dragon as just another
piece of derivative fiction, fifteen years past its time even when it
first came out in the late 90s. And for the first 40 or 50 pages you
would almost be justified, faced with a barrage of techno-gabble and
the superficial fondness for neologisms that's almost a trademark of
second rate cyberpunk -- the mistaken belief that flashy language and
countless brand-names somehow equate with the substance of a fully realised
It would be easy, but it would be a mistake. Grimwood wrote this novel
with a '90s knowingness -- Razz's cyberpunk augmentations are regarded
as passé by many, for example. He writes with humour -- in a
future of declining fertility, for instance, sperm futures are quoted
on the Dow Jones. His characterisation is deft, sure and engaging. And
the plot, confusing and muddied at first, ties everything together in
a grand and explosive finale. Violent, passionate and thoroughly seedy,
Lucifer's Dragon makes for a cracking good read.
Review by Keith Brooke.
This review first appeared, in slightly different
form, in Odyssey, and they still haven't paid me what they
owe for most of my work there.
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