Monday, June 30, 2014

Meatworks by Jordan Castillo Price: A Review

Review by Wench Veronica Vishous 

Jordan Castillo Price’s latest novel, Meatworks, releases this Thursday, July 3rd. Having been hooked on several of her series (Channeling Morpheus, PsyCop, Mnevermind) and biding my time for the third and final Mnevermind book, I was a little surprised and very happy when I learned she had a new book coming out in July. When I read the description, I was flat out intrigued and couldn’t wait to read it. Heavy on the technological sci-fi, it wasn’t my usual thing. But the main character is described as having a “crusty punk rock charm” and he’s forced to attend an amputee support group. Really, how could I resist?

The author provided an Advanced Reader Copy for this review. Find out if the book lived up to my expectations after the jump. 



Meatworks, is a standalone novel set in an alternate universe in the not-too-distant future, one where computing technology had diverted to the field of robotics rather than personal computers. Our protagonist is Desmond Poole, a guy in his early 30s who knows that Green Day is about as punk as One Direction, who takes better care of his vodka and Sea Monkeys than his apartment, and who hates all things robotics but now has to wear a robotic prosthesis.

In addition to trying to rebel against this robotic prosthetic, Desmond is dealing with his pain-in-the-ass social worker who signs his correspondence “Love, Jim,” and Corey, the cute younger rudeboy he meets in Gimp Group, the support group he's forced to attend.
"No, not that gimp."
"Not that gimp, either"

Price has a writing style unique to the m/m genre. Her works are a little dark and rough around the edges, yet cozy. Note that I said cozy, not warm and fuzzy. Meatworks follows in this stylistic tradition. I have to say, though, while Price's protagonists are usually flawed yet engaging and likable, Desmond is, well... Desmond is an ass.

Desmond doesn't mean to be an ass. But the guy's got issues. He's a luddite, a cranky old man trapped in a young man's body, and pretty damn oblivious to everything except making himself feel better and avoiding things that make him feel worse. But otherwise he's a cool guy. No, really.

For all his flaws, I kinda like Desmond. He may not be the wisest person to get emotionally attached to, but part of me certainly identifies with him. I get where he's coming from and how he got there. And I like his “fuck it” attitude. Yep.

“From the diner between my bus stop and my place, I grabbed a leathery burger that'd been forgotten under the heat lamp, wolfed it down in the rain, finished it before I got to my driveway, and chucked the wrapper over the neighbor's chain link fence. My Riverside apartment was on the second floor of an old colonial, typical of the neighborhood, that'd been split into four units decades ago in an ambitiously haphazard way. The guy who'd done the construction had possessed either a great sense of humor or an overinflated opinion of his own carpentry skills. The hall was narrow, the floor sloped down, and the number 3 on my front door had been hung crooked and the sealed tight with about ten coats of yellowed shellac.”

I think I've lived in that apartment. Crooked door number and all. And wait. What? Did he throw his burger wrapper in his neighbor's yard?

Desmond is also just trying to survive on the outskirts of a world where he feels he doesn't quite fit. He manages a bot-free existence where everyone else has a housebot, a coffeebot, a carbot, and so on. At a Gimp Group session, poor group leader Pam can't help but get judgy about a younger member's location of recreation. Desmond gets a little judgy right back:

 “People like Pam generally didn't get the allure of train tracks and viaducts and abandoned riverfront warehouses. While north side snobs like her went to prom, Riverside scumbags like me were drinking Molsons when we could get someone to buy for us, and huffing airplane cement when we couldn't. Knocking up tenth-graders — or, in my case, on my knees in the mud with some skeevy ki d who would've graduated three, four years before me if he hadn't jumped the gun and dropped out. Where? Not in rented limos like the fancy brats. Hell, no. Our limos were the train tracks, the viaducts, and the bellies of the abandoned warehouses.”

No viaducts or warehouses in the country, but I used to walk down The Tracks to go to The Swing at The River. Based on that sentence, not many people in my life now would know what the hell I was up to back then; Desmond might get it, though.

So, anyway. That's Desmond. So caught up in being a rebel with a cause that sometimes he misses the things that he should be fighting for. Even when they're waving a giant Black Flag in front of his face.

Desmond kinda sorta bounces between Corey and Jim. If you asked Des, he probably wouldn't see it that way, but I get the feeling he is a man of opportunity and if he blew his chance with one, he'd have no problem settling in with the other. I wasn't Team Corey or Team Jim; I think Desmond is such a mess that both would be better off without him! Bless Des' heart.

But Desmond-Corey-Jim is not what this book is about. Like I said, Desmond's got issues, and this book is about Desmond figuring his shit out. Let me remind you, this is not a warm and fuzzy or touchy feely sort of book. So grab your vodka and punk/post-punk playlists and settle in. Meatworks is set in a world where robotics are ubiquitous; they make our coffee exactly as we like it, set our lights and air temperature just right when we get home, forward our phone calls wherever we go, drive our cars, and play music according to the preferences of the people in the room. Robotics make our life simpler and nobody questions it. Except Desmond. He hates robotics. Hates them in all their forms. And so what does Desmond do when he can't get by without having one, literally, attached at his arm?

I was really rooting for Desmond to get his shit together; I never knew if he was going to do the right thing or fuck it all up even more. Page after page, I was waiting to see what he was going to do next. Is this a feel good story where Desmond learns to live with his robotic hand and assimilates into the new world order? Or does Desmond lead a revolution and show society the error of its ways by being over-reliant on robotic technology? Or... do the bots themselves have a more sinister plan? Readers of Jordan Castillo Price know I'm yanking your chain here. Go read the damn book and find out for yourself.

Wench Rating:


Goodreads

Book Blurb:
Desmond Poole is damaged in more ways than one. If he was an underachiever before, he’s entirely useless now that he’s lost his right hand. He spends his time drowning his sorrows in vodka while he deliberately blows off the training that would help him master his new prosthetic. Social Services seems determined to try and stop him from wallowing in his own filth, so he’s forced to attend an amputee support group. He expects nothing more than stale cookies, tepid decaf and a bunch of self-pitying sob stories, so he’s blindsided when a fellow amputee catches his eye.

Corey Steiner is a hot young rudeboy who works his robotic limb like an extension of his own body,and he’s smitten by Desmond’s crusty punk rock charm from the get-go. Unfortunately, Desmond hasn’t quite severed ties with his ex-boyfriend, and Corey isn’t known for his maturity or patience.

Meatworks is set in a bleak near-future where cell phone and personal computer technologies never developed. In their place, robotics flourished. Now robots run everything from cars to coffee pots. Taking the guesswork out of menial tasks was intended to create leisure time, but instead robots have made society dependent and passive.

Desmond loathes robots and goes out of his way to avoid them. But can he survive without the robotic arm strapped to the end of his stump?

*Meatworks Banner and Book Cover art by Jordan Castillo Price

3 comments:

  1. Yay, I'm excited to see an early review of this book. I'm addicted to JCP's books, and I think her gift for subtle dystopias is refined with each twisted near-future setting she writes. Looking forward to this one. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm itching to read this book now. Great review Veronica.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just finished the ARC of Meatworks. and I loved it!!!!!! Your review was spot on. :)

    ReplyDelete