|Submitted by Carolyn Crow |
(Aug 17, 2009)
Can you imagine a world where real sex takes a back seat to virtual reality? In Bruce Golden’s novel, Better Than Chocolate, Mid-21st Century San Francisco Police Inspector Noah Dane discovers a conspiracy to create such a world, while investigating his partner’s murder. Dane finds himself in a race against time to foil a plot which threatens the very existence of humankind.
Though character-driven, this book has atmosphere and action to burn, while delivering sometimes-profound social commentary on issues like freedom, sexual repression, privacy, morality, and religion, all with biting satire and comic undertones. Considering the current social climate where our personal freedoms are increasingly endangered, this story, though set in the future, is always relevant. Golden does this all while taking what are ostensibly clichés, and deftly turning them inside out.
As in his previous novel, Mortals All, Golden creates an abundant cast of vibrant, quirky, yet very real characters you can empathize with. The story is told from two viewpoints. First is the macho, wisecracking ex-jock police inspector Noah Dane, whose world is turned upside down by a chain of escalating events. The second viewpoint comes from demure but curious Chastity Blume, the celebrated talk show host known as “America’s Favorite Virgin.” She’s searching for the mother she never knew, and along the way discovers herself, as well as the plot against humanity.
In addition to the main characters, there’s a host of colorful, larger-than-life supporting characters, including Dane’s new partner—a Marilyn Monroe celebudroid. It’s as if the legendary film star was reborn, and hilarity ensues when her original programming crosses circuits with her law enforcement training. And then there’s Dane’s loony, pink-haired neighbor Mrs. Grabarkowitz, who believes mutants abducted the husband who left her for another woman; Kess, the charismatic, Shakespeare quoting alien; voluptuous Georgia (George) Brown, the police department’s mini-skirted, transsexual forensic specialist; Gertie, the “theratech,” Dane’s computer therapist; Snip, the blustery street urchin, Dane’s cloned and genetically-flawed informant; and a Jim Morrison celebudroid who works as a garbage man (calling himself the Shaman of Sanitation). These are just a few of the character gems that populate this tale.
Golden’s talent for creating original characters is matched by his uncanny gift for clever but realistic dialogue, which crackles and pops off each page. Jam-packed with double entendres, tweaked expressions, and futuristic jargon, this book is damned fun. You won’t find pages of flowery descriptions and hyper adjectives if that’s your thing. This is a fast-moving, entertaining read you won’t be able to put down. Even the ingenious chapter titles are more than just placeholders, with phrases like “Abstinence Makes the World Go Down,” “Here Today, Gonzo Tomorrow,” “A Girl’s Best Zen,” and “Anus of the Hurricane.” Better Than Chocolate is pure sci-fi satisfaction, living up to its title in delicious spades.