Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

NETHERWORLD #1: PLEASURE MODEL by Christopher Rowley and Justin Norman

Greg Manchess’s cover art for Pleasure Model made me order the novel from Amazon. I haven’t seen any of Tor’s new Heavy Metal Pulp novels on the shelves yet, but I am now looking for them. I’ve picked up the other two novels in this opening trilogy.

The concept of the finished book is an intriguing mix. In addition to Manchess’s eye-catching cover, Justin Norman has provided black and white comic book style art on nearly every page. On one hand this makes the book a short, quick read, but I found myself intrigued enough by the art to stop and spend some time flipping back through the pages. Norman’s illustrations give the reader a cinematic feel of the action in several sequences and the book honestly wouldn’t have been the same without the art.

Of course, the series pays homage to the types of science fiction stories presented in the Heavy Metal magazines that started up in 1977. I read those magazines as a kid and enjoyed some of the stories and wasn’t so crazy about others. A lot of them moved science fiction pulp from digest sized publications into a slick magazine chockfull of eye-popping art and color. The stories, as a general rule, tended to be more adult as well, and a lot of the tales as well as their delivery was experimental.

There’s nothing experimental about Christopher Rowley’s story. This tale could have been ripped from some of the edgy adult-oriented SF that was published in the 1960s. Readers hopeful of finding new technological advances in the story won’t find them, nor will they discover a fully realized world.

Rowley delivers a sketchy noir future and plunges his readers into titillating action with a scene that focuses on a professional dominatrix that almost gets whacked by an assassination team that takes out her client. She goes on the run and we don’t see her again for several chapters, which I thought was odd. However, she does return to be a major player throughout the rest of the trilogy.

Our hero is Rook Venner, a police detective with a rough, gruff exterior, an itchy trigger finger, and a good heart. Usually this is my kind of hero, and I liked Rook a lot, but that’s all we really get to know about him. He just never truly gets fleshed out. He remains the eye of a particularly nasty storm as killers fall out of the woodwork to kill the pleasure model vat-grown humanoid that’s discovered in the murder victim’s home.

In the beginning, Rook spirits Plesur away from the predations of his fellow police officers. As a vat-grown person, Plesur has no rights and an IQ that’s set at room temperature. Several killers jump into the fray and Rook and Plesur go on the run almost immediately. The model is called a “Pammy” and there’s no doubt (at least in my mind) that it’s based on Pamela Anderson Lee (Barb Wire).

Although there’s nothing really new here, the book is a fun romp, a B-grade movie played out on the pages, cheesy dialogue, predictable plotting, and oodles of illustrations that made turning the pages a delight. I read this one in a single sitting at night while gearing down from the day and had a lot of fun. It’s not for the serious science fiction fan, but for those of us who can be twelve again and live for the moment while reading adrenalin-fueled action, the book delivers no-brainer enjoyment.


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