28 January 2015

Review: Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Near Enemy
Adam Sternbergh
Headline, 2015
Paperback, 306pp

I was sent a copy of this book through bookbridgr

I also bought a copy because I got a bit impatient. Such is life...

Following Shovel Ready, published last year, Sternbergh has returned to a wrecked near-future New York and his antihero Spademan.

Spademan is - and there's no evading this - a murderer.  He makes his living carrying out contract killings - no questions asked. Disposal of the bodies is easy: Spademan's an ex garbage collector for the city.

When did it all go wrong for him? Probably the same day it went very wrong for New York - when the dirty bomb took out Times Square, and Spademan's wife died.  Now the city is bankrupt and those who remain and who have any money use it renting the equipment they need to live in "the Limn" - a virtual reality which leaves their physical bodies decaying slowly in real life, tended only by nurses. Like the Nurse who features in this book, and whose clients seem to attract trouble in the Limn...

Add a subplot involving Persephone, the woman Spademan rescued in Shovel Ready but who's now being hunted by members of her father's corrupt church; a Mayoral election (even the corpse of New York provides rich pickings); the possibility that a terrorist attack in the Limn may be imminent, and you get a heady, if slightly bitter, mix, told in a laconic, noirish style - and we see here that Spademan may be consciously adopting that style, and why:

"Next morning. Sun comes knocking.
Check the clock again. 6 a.m.
I sit up. Bed's empty. Nurse is dressing in the doorway. Tugs her crepe-soled shoes on, over white stockings.
Morning, Spademan. You hungry?
I find my shirt. Tell Nurse.
I am. I know a place. You like waffles?
Who doesn't like waffles?
I have to admit. I'm really starting to warm up to this Nurse."

There's no shortage of graphic violence.  Spademan's New York is a dog-eat-dog place, and he's no saint.  But I think we do see a softer side here.  Not only has he a sort-of family to fight for, in place of seeking revenge for his wife's death, but we get some clues about his early life and the chances he missed - which now make him seek redemption by saving another.

An excellent sequel, easily as good as the original, and I think setting up the possibility of a further sequel.

Well worth a read, if you like alt-noir.

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