I was a big fan of the Immorality Clause by Brian Parker last year. It was basically a variant on Blade Runner with the premise of a Louisiana Detective in the future doing his best to find out who was responsible for the deaths at a gynoid sex club. I was, thus, extremely interested in the follow-up book as far too many books are interested in the trappings of cyberpunk versus the more nuanced ways of examining how technology can be used to screw up people's lives. 'Technology is neutral in cyberpunk but people suck so it'll always be misused' being one way to explain it.
So, what did I get? Well, I was thrown as the book opens with our protagonist hunting Batman. Well, actually, a guy who wears masked black body armor and hunts criminals called the Paladin. That, however, actually paid off in the end. Still, it's interesting the book shifts some elements from the first book that I was troubled by. Aside from these elements, though, I find Tears of a Clone to be an extremely enjoyable science fiction novel that has a more polished feel in several respects. I loved the original book and enjoyed this one a great deal, making me eager to see a third one in the series.
The premise is Detective Zach Forrest is currently hunting the Paladin for the vigilante's murder of several criminals. Zach's a hardline "criminals deserve no mercy" sort of cop himself, so his distaste for the Paladin rings a bit hollow. Indeed, he's actually under investigation for charges of police brutality at the start of the story. However, all of this becomes a side story with the discovery of mutilated clones in the city. Apparently, someone has created "torture tourism" where individuals can mutilate and murder clones for pay. This disgusts Detective Forrest because he has met clones and know them to as human as anyone else.
This element is the only part of the story which confuses me, along with Zach's belief Easytown is a kind of Fallujah of America given it's a major tourist destination in the city as well as popular Red Light District. Why are clones needed when they have androids and gynoids perfectly capable of mimicking human responses that Zach slept with one without being able to tell the difference?
Likewise, how did it get to the point people became unable to tell the difference between clones and robots that the former have no legal rights? I get the metaphor Zach is trying to use but wonder why society would have both clones and humanoid robots versus one or the other. No adequate answer was given and it seems like there'd be a competition between them at the least.
Despite this, I really enjoyed the dark and gritty story which unfolded. Zach is like a dog on a bone, constantly trying to find ways to getting justice for the clone victims who have no legal protections. The metaphor for various minorities and setting in the Deep South makes an appropriate homage even if the story is never heavy-handed. The reader can draw the parallels between the treatment of Blacks and clones but there's never a need by the author to point them out.
The protagonist is an interesting study in contradiction. He's a borderline alcoholic who is extremely unpleasant to people he believes might potentially have committed a crime. For example, he is particularly awful to a sorority girl undergoing hazing because he believes she is in the wrong neighborhood. Despite this, he's also brave, honorable, and less prejudiced to the technologically created minorities around him while everyone else treats them as appliances. He reminds me of Karl Urban's character from the short-lived Almost Human series and that's a compliment.
The key appeal of Brian Parker's writing is that while he may not, necessarily, make Easytown or the greater parish of New Orleans feel "realistic", it certainly feels "authentic." Little details about where Forrest prefers to work as well as his daily regime ground the story amid all of its science fiction elements as well as make you believe he's an actual person living on a working stiff's wage. It's a rare genre author who bothers to try to pull that off and we're all the poorer for it and luckier when someone does and can.
While the best part of the book is the cutting away at the murder-porn ring, I also enjoyed the romance in the book as well. I'm not a shipper usually but Zachery's troubles reminded me of Harry Dresden's and that's always a good thing. I hope he doesn't get with Teagan, his much-younger admirer as he has chemistry with a lot of more interesting women. Hell, even his Siri stand-in, Andi, has better chemistry with him. Whatever the case, this is an excellent cyberpunk noir novel and I can't wait for the next one.