Wow. Haven’t finished a book in awhile where I felt so conflicted afterwards. Pleasure Model by Christopher Rowley is the first book to be published by Tor in their Heavy Metal Pulp line. For those unfamiliar, the line is based off of the Heavy Metal graphic magazine that was the influence for a number of animated movies over the past few decades, and remains a popular adult graphic adventure magazine. The idea is to take story lines similar to what you would find in the magazine, write them up as prose novels in the style of old pulp adventures, and then have an illustrator add illustrations to almost every page.
The result was, if nothing else, a lot of fun. I’ll start my review literally from the cover. The book contains a beautiful painted pulp-style cover by Gregory Manchess. This is what originally sold me on the book. As I’ve admitted previously this type of cover will get me to buy a book just so I have the art.
The novel (or maybe novella) is short. Only 238 pages, at least 20% of the book are black and white illustrations by Justin Norman. These are typically found one or a few per page and appear in rectangular cells about 6 lines high (or about 20% of the page). The result is that you are almost always looking at an illustration of what the prose is describing. This is the second book I’ve read in a row (Expiration Date being the first) which uses interior illustrations. While the illustrations in Expiration Date were scattered throughout and didn’t really impact reading at all, the page after page of illustrations in Pleasure Model couldn’t be ignored. It wasn’t a bad thing, but I didn’t love it either.
As for the story itself, imagine Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep without the deeper questions and with a lot more sex and nudity. A detective investigates a murder and finds a brand new untouched Pammy Pleasure Model (basically a genetically engineered woman born created in a lab for “pleasure” with a lifespan of about 10 years) in the guy’s house. As soon as our hero takes responsibility for this evidence/witness suddenly everyone is out to kill him. Now its up to him to unravel why. Basically exactly what you would expect from Heavy Metal magazine.
The story moves fast and was certainly entertaining if you are able to see it as the equivalent of a summer popcorn movie. However, don’t expect too much from it, it certainly has a bad pulp story feel. In addition, the conclusion is somewhat open ended as the book is Book 1 of Netherworld as shown on the cover. With that being said, will I be picking up Book 2 – The Bloodstained Man when it is published in June? Even though the cover isn’t as tempting, I would still say it was enough fun for me to pick up the sequel sometime in the future, but probably not right away.
If you’re looking for a real quick paced, not-too-deep SciFi/Crime story, and you’re not easily offended by sex, nudity or misogyny, go ahead and give it a try.