Review - SKINJOB, Bruce McCabe

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

SKINJOB started out as a self-published novel before being picked up by Random House / Bantam Press. A techno-thriller this is a cross-genre story putting many of the standard aspects of classic crime fiction into a Science Fiction / futuristic setting.

The central theme of the book - the development, by DreamCon of the ultimate in prostitution / servitude female robots for the enjoyment of their male clients - mostly in "brothels" known as Dollhouses is a confrontational idea. The idea that those opposed to this scenario are a major church (run as a huge business) and "militant feminists" is feasible, although you could be excused for thinking predictable.  The scenario could be a little confrontational for those of a more sensitive nature, as the Skinjobs are designed to be a realistic as possible, and to provide men with the ultimate in dark sexual fantasy. Even for somebody with a stronger stomach for the written worst of human nature, the concept was, well, revolting. Luckily some of the mechanics of the way that these robots work are sort of hinted at, although there are bits that will make you wonder.

SKINJOB is drawing a picture of a future that's very discomforting - with DreamCon and their sexual revolution versus the Christian Church of America, a corporate behemoth in its own right with it's own scandals and flaws. Against these corporate giants you have FBI Agent Daniel Madsen to save the day. Armed with a hand-held lie detector which is infallible, and the sort of camera and surveillance network that's not that hard to believe he's up against the same sorts of petty bureaucracy, inter-agency rivalry and corruption that sadly invades this future as it does our present. Madsen isn't playing a completely lone hand though, as Surveillance expert Shari Sanayei joins in the fight, although she's got more than enough baggage to complicate everything.

The clever thing about SKINJOB is that none of the futuristic technology is that hard to believe, understand or even follow. There's something particularly chilling about the idea of the universality of surveillance, to say nothing of the idea of large corporates (be they DreamCon or the Christian Church of America) having tentacles right into the heart of society, law and order and influence.

Cleverly, the action is told in series of short chapters that explode out of the blocks and race to the conclusion. The action actually takes places over a 6 day period and things twist and turn and flick to the next phase so rapidly that it's not hard to find yourself glued to the next page, and the next. Everything about SKINJOB was chillingly believable, even the parts that made you squirm more than a little bit.

This is book that would work for Science Fiction fans, and definitely worked for this crime fiction fan. It will be interesting to see where McCabe takes this series next.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

SOCIETY IS DIVIDED. Silicon Valley has taken virtual sex to the extreme, encouraging men to act out their darkest and most violent sexual fantasies. Militant feminists and churches are bitterly opposed. Powerful corporations battle for market control. In the midst of a fierce protest campaign, a bomb goes off in San Francisco.

TWELVE ARE DEAD. Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a gun, a badge and a handheld lie detector. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber before he strikes again.

A NIGHTMARE AWAITS. Madsen plunges headlong into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual and the web of corruption extends all the way to Washington … only to discover the stakes are higher than he could ever imagine.

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