Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Review: Masque by F.Paul Wilson and Matthew J. Costello

Masque by F.Paul Wilson and Matthew J. Costello

Paperback, 368 pages

Published June 1999 by Aspect

I have been reading mostly new releases lately so this is kinda of a random book for me in a couple ways. Anyone following my reviews knows F.Paul Wilson is one of my top five writers easily, his ability to pace and structure a novel is the best on the planet. I admit I had not heard of Matthew Costello before but Dr. Wilson was the first draw, and the high concepts.

Look I picked this up at a used bookstore that was going out of business and the corny cover made me laugh. That said It is one of my favorite authors and when I read the back cover description I was sold.

This novel is set a century or two in the future in a dystopia, I got the feeling these future earthlings had survived a nuclear war or a ecological collapse but that was a bit vague. Don't misunderstand me this novel is effective at many things, one of which is world building. No matter how strange this world was it felt fully developed. This was important because the concept was such a vital part of the story.

At the heart was a very interesting character Tristan. Indentured to a corporation Tristan is not a normal person. He is a perfect spy because his genetically engineered to be a shapeshifter. The people with metamorphic DNA are called "mimes" and for good reason they are very mistrusted in this world. Tristan wants to be locked into one form and finally get citizenship. To get these things he must complete one mission.

What follows is a strange cyberpunk spy novel that is not as streamlined as I used to with Wilson. One of his strengths is no frills narratives that fly! The level of weird here was source of constant enjoyment for this reader. Former mimes turned religious leaders, Mutant underground clubs, and hero constantly changing identity. Tristan gets dragged into plot to kill off all Mimes and can't trust anyone.

First off this novel is 19 years old so some of the technology and terms you would expect to feel out of date. Not really, the most out of date thing in this novel is the Max Headroom-ish cover art. The elements of Noir,spy thrillers and Cyberpunk are perfectly executed.

Keep in mind it was released in 1998 it was ahead of it's time. Two popular works of fiction came later and did very similar things. In the not super close but was on my mind category is the Richard Morgan novel Altered Carbon (and it's sequels) in that novel all the name elements were there. Spy, noir and Cyberpunk, The hero didn't morph DNA but was switching bodies and never said the same. Fans of Altered Carbon might really enjoy it.

As the morphagentic DNA shape shifters. Yeah they had those in Fringe. Yes it was done here first. Did someone at Bad Robot read this novel first? Who can say? I suspect it was coincidence.

Overall I enjoyed this novel but I can think of a dozen F.Paul Wilson books I would recommend before this one. If you are looking for weird whacked out Cyberpunk not written by authors not known for this sub-genre then yeah, It is a fun read.

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