Reviewed by Adam J. Shardlow
Set in a future Australia, the world having been devastated by some unspecified disaster; Melbourne, like all good future cities has become a dystopia where the rich live in an artificial bubble, the Dome, whilst the poor make ends meet outside, on the continually rain soaked mean streets. Floyd Maquina, is an unwilling Seeker, tasked with tracking down and eliminating Deviants, those people considered surplus to the requirements of the city. Having little choice about the role that is thrust upon him, he takes a lax attitude to his work and superiors, whilst ensuring any Deviants he deals with are apprehended rather than killed. Unsurprisingly, Floyd in a pawn in a much bigger game, and the powers that be know how to manipulate him and the decaying urban world around them. With his wife requiring expensive medical assistance, the threat that she might be deemed deviant, Floyd has no other choice than to hit bottle and take his seat for the joyride.
Bergen has great affection for film noir, gangsters and cool broads with a shady past. Jokes and references zip past and clobber the reader, so many that an encyclopaedia, glossary and film/reading list are included should you want to check those you have missed. The atmosphere is similar in style to the movie Bladerunner whilst the structure is from The Maltese Falcon.
Witty and literate, the book skips along at a lively pace, slows somewhat in the middle and then makes a mad dash for the finishing line. Floyd is a likeable character, the low down gumshoe in need of a quick buck and a shot of whisky is a familiar trope, and Bergen gets the voice and accent just right. The story does go a little off kilter at times, meandering rather than setting out any true destination, but it is the ride rather than the finishing line that makes this a fun read. It’s certainly no worse than trying to understand the plot holes in many of the best Bogart movies.