`Plastic Jesus' is the fifth book from writer Wayne Simmons, and it's a slight departure from his previous novels. So, if you're looking for zombie-horror here, you won't find it. Instead, he's written a sci-fi noir thriller much in the style of `Blade Runner' and `Sin City' mixed with a hint of Mega City One and the film `Children of Men'. This is a bold move from the writer and, to be fair, he pulls it off with style, verve and heaps of cyberpunk goodness.
Set in a dystopian future, Lark City is situated off the coast of America, where hedonism and crime is rife, and the streets are full of the desperate and dangerous. An urban jungle stalked by predators in all forms.
Code guy Johnny Lyon, still recovering from his wife's death, is tasked with creating a Jesus social networking AI, to rebrand religion years after a terrible holy war. Something goes wrong. Soon, the streets are in chaos and the city is on the verge of imploding.
It's a story full of grit and filth; you can almost smell the stink of dirty streets and random violence rising off the page. My fingers felt grimy after reading the book, but in a good way. The novel is populated with a menagerie of desperate, lost people. There are some great characters. Johnny is excellently-realised, as are the police chief, Rudlow, and the Bar Man, the local crime lord's henchman and probably my favourite character. The only character I felt could have been developed a bit more was Paul McBride, the crime boss who rules the criminal underworld in Lark City. He wasn't a two-dimensional villain by any means but he didn't quite ring true for me.
`Plastic Jesus' is an excellent novel and proof that Wayne Simmons can turn his hand to other genres as well as horror. It's fast-paced, with prose as lean as a whippet, and peppered with razor-sharp social commentary and observations on religion, technology, and the dark side of human nature.