Review of HARMONICA & GIG by R. J . Astruc

Does the title lead you to believe this book is quirky? Well, that’s what I figured and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I’m forced to admit that it’s almost too quirky for my limited intelligence. Although extremely well written and intelligently plotted, this novel was difficult for me due to the cyber/sci-fi blend of jargon—almost as if half of it was in a foreign language. However, readers who are up to speed with this genre will love it, and for the rest of us? Why, there’s plenty of mystery, murder, spooks, good old detective work and even a little sex. In fact, when you pick up this book, fasten your seatbelt, because you’re in for a thrilling ride filled with page-turning adventure in the q-verse—a digital and primitive, half-cyber, half-real world of primordial computer code and digitally constructed beings.
Harmonica is the q-verse handle for Harry, a remarkable woman protagonist and the supreme hacker. How does she know she is ‘self”? Because she thinks. Whoa, heavy. Gig is her boyfriend. Sort of. Along with a “neurotic online transvestite who sublimates his fears with alcohol” these colorful characters don many disguises as they investigate a murder, together and separately. Disguises? Skins is the author’s word. We get tortoises, chameleons, vampires, dragons, rabbits, and body-builders. And the default skin? Human. They can even hack into each others’ bodies. Like I said, quirky. Sublimated, there’s a wonderful ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to all of it (in fact Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum skins are featured).
Regardless of the genre and jargon, good writing should make the reader feel immersed in a conflict filled, make-believe world. Believe me—the author’s exemplary literary skills deliver plenty of tension while his vivid sensory descriptions and crisp, scene-setting narrative put us right there in the q-verse. His unusual characters leap right off the page and the rush to climax is satisfying. Throughout, I admit I was confused at times but never off course, even with my limited cyber-knowledge. Unfortunately, nowhere on the book jacket or inside is a bio of the author, R.J. Astruc so I can’t tell you anything about him (or her). However, I can tell you this: here’s an Australian writer who is extremely intelligent and talented. Fans of the genre should look forward to anything written by R.J. Astruc.
A Good Read, by reviewer: Jan Evan Whitford, Allbooks Reviews Int. http://www.allbooksreviewint.com
Published by: Dragonfall Press ©2004, 2011
ISBN978-0-9806341-4-3, Trade paperback,
365 pages
$19.95 Australian
June 2011
For more info: http://www.dragonfallpress.com

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