Sky Times

“The desire for control, in a universe ever moving toward entropy, is based on unreality.”

The hologram of Spider explains this to G-Boy. An inexorable truth, but has it ever obstructed the reach for control among those obsessed with the grasp of power? The compulsion for control of lives is the nemesis in Fools’ Sacrifice (Kindle edition, 2014), Geronimo Bosch’s brilliant projection of tyranny and resistance in a future all too near with an extrapolation of existing technologies and familiar psychoses all too real.

Dominion City, a megalopolis responding to the gradual disappearance of land and roads reclaimed by rising seas, has turned its attention skyward. The most common modes of transport are airborne: Sky-Dos (“skidoos”) rocket the skies, Zooters, Floaters, and Wings, dodging thrill-seeking daredevils in helium-filled Loons. The aerial congestion has prompted traffic control: authorization procedures and monitoring devices centralized by State agencies, patrolled by Buzz Cops. Centralizing authority has endued a State that “rules by decree” with intimate knowledge of its citizens and their movements with concomitant power to control them.

Access to sky travel moves along class lines determined by economic circumstances – largely controlled by State – and Dominion City itself reflects distinctions of wherewithal, geographically distinguished into InCity, MidCity, and OutCity dwellers with corresponding degrees of privilege. Alienation rises among the intelligentsia as a corrosive steam expressed in private whispers and public protest. A predatory outlaw culture exists for the reasons it always does: envy, avarice, dispossession, and despair.

The most profitable enterprise for outlaws is skidjacking – the heist of skidoos to be consigned to networks of remodel shops, stripped, rewired, repainted, and resold on the black market. Such operations require the pooling of outlaw resources in Garages, gangs with organizational sophistication, technical expertise, and, most importantly, suicidal courage for Humming, skipping from roof-to-roof across the sky traffic.

This last aptitude for the Skidz – the skidoo theft trade – is most commonly found among the Yoot, young OutCity Slummers with nothing to lose except their lives.

G-Boy is one of these. Formerly Lee Lazarus, a promising artist and muralist, his gang tag reflects his talent for dazzling graffiti. Teamed with Spider – so called due to her tattoo of shape-shifting nano-organisms – they are assigned by gang leader Zoot to run a decoy mission, to jack a Pegasus Speedster from a parking facility. The craft belongs to Priority Client Doctor Uberhalser. Their theft is smoothly executed until the unthinkable occurs: Uberhalser’s Pegasus has been booby trapped. G-Boy and Spider avoid the explosion, swapping the doomed Speedster for another skidoo in mid-flight, but the calamity wreaks havoc with air traffic and other Zoot operations and slams the full weight of State’s wrath and Zoot’s vengeance against them.

G-Boy and Spider flee, take refuge in a crawlspace, and assess their situation. “The Skidz breed skeptics,” the saying goes. Was the Pegasus meant to assassinate Uberhalser or were they themselves set up by Zoot? Summoned to the Yard, an abandoned Garage hideout, Zoot interrogates them roughly. Buzz Cops attack. G-Boy is rescued by a curious Space Dwarf.

The Space Dwarf delivers G-Boy to Long Hedz Inc (for Incommunicado), where he undergoes transformations that boost his knowledge exponentially, but also stimulate his suspicions. Why has he been selected for special treatment, but not Spider?

He is relentlessly pursued by gangsters, bounty hunters, and thugs from State in their Goonboats. Like Alice, he dives into rabbit holes, ingests substances that alter his mental and physical dimensions, and passes into a looking glass reality not of wonder, but of horror. He visits Terminal Junction, the Church of August Revelations, the Shifting Spectral Fortress, Rollo Horne’s bar, King Knut’s Oohs and Aahs, the Church of the Spiral Cacophony, and the Dead Pools. Having received from Long Hedz Inc (for Incommunicado) an interactive salamander nano-tattoo to guide and, when necessary, to repair him, he also gains assistance from Spider, beautiful Thea, and childhood sweetheart Eiddwen.

G-Boy’s external odyssey is companion to internal discovery. His past – erased by traumatic events, but gradually restored by recovered memories – holds the key to unlock an appalling plan concocted by State. Only G-Boy has the savvy to stymie totalitarian designs of unspeakable evil.

Geronimo Bosch unfolds his superbly harrowing tale with masterful command of language, original, pictorial, lyrical. He presents densely detailed scenes with a painter’s eye, keen for color, shape, and motion. Vivid characters populate the story: “Around his right eye socket, a softly rotating pentagram; on the opposite cheek a circle-A anarchy symbol on slow fade and repeat; through the bridge of his widish nose, a horizontal Variglo cone-tipped spike; piercing his thick bottom lip, a vertical spike, identical in all other respects; in both ear lobes, silver death’s head studs; topping off this image of defiant non-conformity were larger Variglo cone-tipped spikes arranged trans-dermally along his shaved scalp in a Metal Mohawk style.”

OutCity Slummers speak an internationalized argot, spiced with Caribbean flavor. “Hey Lazarus. How’s it all goin’, maaang? Hope yo’ head ain’t too noxious. I gotta hand it to you, bruv, you was rare spaced… Alright so, take it easy frizzle fry. You were burning up ‘da heat, so we had to take you off ‘da Grid. Im gonna drop by when ‘dis gig is done and parley parley witcha, devil dog.”

The special charm of science fiction has always been its fascination with technology and the anticipation of its possibilities. The Bosch genius blooms, an efflorescent panorama of exquisitely integrated electro-mechanical apparatus, bio-chemical pharmacopeia, and socio-political structure.

The English language is a grand basilica that welcomes all pilgrims, foreign imports of fresh fruit as well as native tributes of glittering coinage. Fool’s Sacrifice stands shoulder-to-shoulder with classic cautionary novels graced with agile linguistic invention, such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, each concerned with government manipulation not merely of our hearts, but more menacingly, of our minds. These literary cannons arms our vocabulary for conceptual combat as we confront the insidious imposition of “socially constructed inhibitions and corporeal ineffacacies” sanctioned by State for its own corrupt ends.

Geronimo Bosch warns us not to succumb to the “Excited Delirium”, but to “Remember: you are not alone.” The flatulent self-infatuation of governments, the naked self-aggrandizement of corporations, and the hollow self-service of religions are not reality. In our individual selves, we are. And we are not alone.

(Review posted on Amazon.com, October 2015)

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