Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Code Noir

by Marianne de Pierres


She's described as "pretty dangerous" and "insane" by other characters, but those descriptions don't do Parrish Plessis justice. A woman who wears garrotting filament in her underwear, when we first met her in Nylon Angel she was working for Jamon Mondo. Now she's the boss, but her situation is just as precarious as ever.

Parrish finds herself with competition for her position as queenpin of her patch. On top of that the Cabal Coomera, people with real power in the Tert, have an urgent assignment for her. She owes them a blood debt, so refusal or failure is not a viable option. They are missing some karadji, or shamans, and Parrish has until King Tide to find them. She has also been presented with two mysterious flaps of skin by a media robot, and the warning that "the threat is bigger than you realise". Unfortunately her boyfriend blows it up before she can find out any more useful information from it.

Parrish has a very good reason to abstain from violence at the moment, although to say too much about it risks spoiling the plot of Nylon Angel. Nevertheless she has a way of attracting conflict, so there's no real danger of her settling down to lead a quiet life.

Code Noir is a dark book, uglier and more extreme than Nylon Angel, if such a thing is possible. We meet children who have been turned into monsters, and encounter biological and cybernetic experiments that make Josef Mengele look like a dentist. There are people who have so little they are forced to use their own body parts as currency: hair, skin, organs. The sale of organs isn't science fiction, it takes place in deprived countries in the present day. Marianne de Pierres simply takes the worst of mankind's abuses of the poor and of the environment and magnifies them into hell. Pollution, mutations, overcrowding, bioweapons, and the division of rich from poor all combine in the harsh world of the Tert. Yet nature is fighting back, in some places taking over, and whilst no plants can grow on the poisoned soil it's become more carnivorous as well.

Not only are the rich and poor divided, but also the human from the semi-human and the animal. There is a genetic hierarchy, championed by the handsome Loyl me Daac. Parrish has a love-hate relationship with him and doesn't trust him as far as she could throw him (although that would probably be quite a distance). Loyl is one of the weaknesses in her armour, and in Code Noir Parrish is under attack from both inside and out.

As usual the world of Parrish Plessis is complex, frenzied, bloody and improbably dangerous. She walks on a knife edge between life and death, but amidst the high-stakes intrigue and adrenaline hits there is a more subtle message: look at what we're doing to each other, and to the world.

Book Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
    Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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