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Frenzetta Richard Calder (Orbit, £5.99, 268 pages, paperback; published 17 December 1998.)

I'm unfamiliar with Richard Calder's work, so I'm unable to say whether Frenzetta is a continuation/sequel to his previous sequence of Dead Boys, Dead Girls, Dead Things. However, looking at the potted descriptions of these books, I would say that even if it does not contain the same characters, it is an expansion of the same theme.

Frenzetta is a dense, lyrical, sometimes verbose and overblown but never boring, adventure through a future world of cyber-decadence, where a mysterious apocalypse has left the Earth in a state of mutation and divided between Cathay (Asia), Afric, Europa and Atlantis (America). There are cat-girls, rat-girls, wolf-men and all kind of variations in between. The heroes of the piece are Duane, a re-animated corpse killed in battle in the mythical Nam, and who has to eat fresh brains to regenerate, and his lover Frenzetta, the insatiable killer ratgirl who delights in providing Duane with hapless heads and for whom orgasm would mean death. Lovely couple!

The action swings across the globe with panache, from Hong Kong to the deserts of North Africa, from Venice to New York. Calder holds it all together with skill, and my only complaint is the density of his prose, which can sometimes jarr and hold up the pace of the story, but perhaps the rather arcane nature of his prose is half the charm of this book? It certainly takes a bit of getting used to, and I can't say I was altogether impressed for the first 30 pages or so, but once I became attuned to his 'voice' then it was no longer a problem. His style calls to mind Moorcock, the films of Terry Gilliam, French comics, and the work of Elizabeth Hand, another exponent of 'cyber-decadence'.

Highly recommended, but only, of course, if you like this sort of thing. I'm sure many will not, but I for one will be hunting out more of Calder's work. Viva cyber-decadence!

Review by Noel K Hannan.

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© Noel K Hannan 12 June 1999