Monday, January 7, 2013

Strictly Analog by Richard Levesque

Strictly AnalogIn Strictly Analog, author Richard Levesque introduces us to a future where California has seceded from a dying America. A corporation has been elected governor (Romney's "Corporations are people, my friend" comment taken to its ultimate extension) and isn't letting go. While some freedoms have been curtailed in the name of national security, the secret police won't bust you for smoking marijuana. Fear of being expelled to the surrounding wasteland keeps the population in check.

Technological innovation is still alive. Everyone has a pair of iyz, eyeglasses that let you seamlessly connect to the internet (You could say that the initial versions are almost here), essential in a near total digital world. Every facet of people's lives can be recorded and shared with their phriends. If you thought Facebook and You Tube were omnipresent in society today, Levesque shows you the next level.

Our guide to this dystopian future is Ted Lomax, private detective. Ted is a veteran of California's war for independence, where he lost an eye. Having lost said eye, he is unable to use iyz, which require both eyes to bring data into focus. Not being connected 24/7 means that Ted is excluded from society's online interactions, persona non grata, but in his business that's a plus. Not being connected means his investigations remain discreet. In a society where almost nothing is private anymore, secrets are priceless.

Ted's daughter has been arrested for the murder of her boyfriend, a member of the secret police. Ted has only a few days to crack the case before she is deported (the death penalty having been abolished). But clearing her name will require him to figure out who her boyfriend was investigating, a state secret in its own right. Analog skills won't be enough to solve this case. Ted will have to get help from hackers and gear-head rebels, provided they don't sell him out to save their own skins.

Levesque, an English teacher in Southern California, has provided us with a well-crafted story with realistic characters we can root for in a hard-boiled landscape. Told in first person POV, Ted is the perfect guide for the reader. His handicap renders him an outsider, much like we are in his world. While Ted lacks the tough as nails, hard-drinking attitude of typical noir fiction from the 50's, his down on his luck demeanor (he doesn't have an office; he lives in a storage facility) and soft cynicism are a perfect match for cyberpunk.

It feels weird for me, a former tech guy who basically had to re-learn creative writing, to critique the work of an English teacher, but I can definitely say Levesque brings the goods. I really enjoyed reading Strictly Analog. It's a story that should appeal to fans of early Gibson or Sterling. And now that our world is much closer to the cyberpunk vision of tomorrow that was forecast decades ago, the story should appeal to contemporary detective fiction fans too. Strictly Analog is highly recommended.

Strictly Analog is available on the Kindle and in print from Amazon. Visit his website to learn more.

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