Thursday, September 30, 2021

59. Cybernia by Lou Cameron

This is another one that I picked up on a whim at Zoinks Music and Books in Toronto.  The design of this book hits my sweet spot.  I love the wacky but clear illustration and the choice of typeface and colours works for me.  The weird three (or maybe four) -eyed surveillance signpost on the cover even caught my daughter's eye, who asked me twice what it was about.  The image only symbolically represents anything that happens in the book as there is no Ridge or Centre streets, nor a signpost with a rubbery sphere with humanoid eyes atop it in the story.

The premise quite good.  A small town nestled in the remote forests of Norther New Jersey is run entirely by computer.  It does the maintenance, much of the security and manages all its own billing and paperwork. The protagonist, Ross MacLean is called there by his friend, who is starting to get paranoid that the town is out to get him.  Quite soon after the arrival, the friend is indeed killed in a freak accident.  I was hoping for some combination of The Demon Seed and The Corbin Affair but the book never really goes there.  There is a lot of early '70s engineering nerdiry that seems specific enough to suggest the author knew what he was talking about, but any science specifics are undermined by the inconsistent plotting.  It can't decide if it wants to be a thriller or a mystery and the one blocks the other, where we are guessing when it doesn't advance the story and everything is revealed too quickly and then we don't care.  There is also a lot of really dumb sexism which I can usually accept as an artifact of the time. Here the author seems to want to make a point of how woman can only push buttons and not understand any theory. It's honestly offensive. He also has to make a weird point of heterosexuality.  At one point, the town's elderly founder, a well-known theorist, invites Maclean to stay at his place, since he needs a place to stay and says "Don't worry, I'm heterosexual."  WTF early 70s?

There is a little bit of mayhem at the end where the programming of a sex robot gets wire-crossed with the town alarm system while all hell is breaking loose that is fun.  I also enjoyed learning about the Jackson Whites, but overall not a great book.  Too bad, because it sure looks beautiful!

I have found that Lou Cameron was an extremely prolific pulp author and comic book artist, who wrote the Longarm series (basically sex-western series, that I learned about from Paperback Warrior).

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