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Review: 'Warhead', by Ricardo Delgado

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WarheadA dark rumpled figure sat on a subway bench next to a semi-conscious arthropod that had defecated in its pants. In a darkened corner of the moving tram, teenage crustaceans giggled like axe murderers as they passed a battered, dirty needle back and forth, injecting each other with a viscous amber liquid. Lights on the metal jalopy flickered on and off like an epileptic seizure.

Standing in the middle of the car while avoiding eye contact with anything that moved, slickly-dressed business mammals rocked with each jolt of the car as they checked their investments on shiny phones while worrying about end-of-the-year bonuses, keeping their ties straight and getting mugged. A skuzzy combination of squid and octopus shoved tentacles lined with stolen watches into the faces of whoever would look at them. (p. 10)

Right away we are plunged into the seamy underside of New Jerusalem. Well – New Jerusalem is almost nothing BUT seamy underside. The whole city is a slum beneath the floating cities of the planet Ishun, which hover serenely overhead.

Shades of Cordwainer Smith’s “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” in his Underpeople stories, with the floating elite city on Fomalhaut III and the Old City slum on the ground beneath it; or Brian Stableford’s The Realms of Tartarus, with a steel utopia built over Earth and new rat, cat, and dog people evolving on the slum surface Underworld; or Yukito Kishiro’s Gunnm, better known in America from its Battle Angel Alita anime version…

The floating cities are supposed to be for the elite, but really are not much better. Oh, they do have their polished business districts and fancy upper-class neighborhoods – but Ishun has crime everywhere. So ground-bound New Jerusalem is the real pits!

Atlanta, GA, Reliquary Press, May 2010, trade paperback $14.95 (355 pages), Kindle $2.99.