By Richard Calder
First Published: 1992
UK Front Jacket Photo: ‘The Doll on the Stairs’ 1935 by Hans Bellmer
Review © 2011 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Cyberpunk, Science Fiction, Horror
Dead Girls is an older cyberpunk novel by Richard Calder that provides a much different experience than most novels within the cyberpunk genre of science fiction. This is a very literary novel that combines a serious amount of horror and extreme violence with cyberpunk sensibilities and recombinant DNA. The result is an extra dark novel about two young lovers on the run through a Thailand of the future that is even more exotic than the Thailand of the present.
Dead Girls takes place in a not too distant future where very expensive cyber-dolls have been created with the abilities to satisfy all the needs of anyone wanting domestic help with an emphasis on ALL needs. But when cheap Asian knockoffs hit the market, European doll makers responded by developing a virus to infect the Asian dolls. However, the bio-war soon escalated with the West being hit with a virus that caused the daughters of infected men to turn into a new kind of “doll” when they hit puberty. These new dolls begat from humans have a serious thirst for blood along with super strength and other unusual abilities.
Ignatz and Primavera are a young man and a recently “changed” doll who have escaped a quarantined part of London to find freedom in Thailand. Primavera supports the pair as a hit woman but they soon find the tables turned as they become the hunted. Now, they are on a desperate flight through an urban underbelly as they seek freedom and enough understanding to provide some kind of hope for the future.
Do I need to mention that Dead Girls is not a novel for everyone? With extreme violence, vampire like “dolls”, violent sex, and disturbing childhood scenes, this is not for the faint of heart. Even the UK cover art has a disturbing doll photo. In addition, this is not a simple minded light read. Calder throws in a large vocabulary along with a convoluted cyber journey into the mind of a doll that makes for a more challenging than average read.
Dead Girls leans a little too far towards horror and fantasy for my taste. On the other hand, this may be just the kind of novel that could give you a real out of the ordinary jolt while immersing you in very exotic and disturbing future.