Verdict: Part cyberpunk meditation and part erotic thriller, BEASTS is a stylish narrative romp around a fictional Los Angeles landscape that appeals to the heart first and the head second.
Maverick video game designer Jaymi Peek is under attack by his previous employer, the mainstream game company Bang Dead Games. After an armed company drone opens fire on his Los Angeles home, Jaymi retaliates by incarnating Beasts, larger than life characters from games he has yet to create, into the real world. Loose in “meat space,” the Beasts begin to sabotage Bang Dead’s newest game, their guerrilla tactics growing more violent and colorful as they get out of Jaymi’s control.
THE BEASTS OF ELECTRA DRIVE sounds like a cyberpunk thriller, and it sort of is. It also has an erotic undertone that grows throughout the narrative as the Beasts themselves crawl out of Jaymi’s computer screen and gain independence. It’s also a postmodern-ish meditation on creativity. Part of Jaymi goes into the creation of each of his Beasts—perhaps something author Rohan Quine can relate to—and as a whole the group is as a kind of kaleidoscope view of its creator. Additionally, part of Jaymi’s mission in siccing the Beasts on Bang Dead Games is a retaliation against Ain’tTheyFreaky!, an in-universe alternate reality game that embodies empty mass appeal over genuine artistry.
There’s a lot going on in BEASTS, and Quine can’t take advantage of all of it. Ain’tTheyFreaky!, as well as sporting a fantastic name, would be interesting to examine in a world increasingly flooded with social media, but Quine focuses on unpacking the hyper-realistic psychologies of his Beasts. Accordingly, BEASTS sometimes feels more like a collection of character studies than world building (although Quine does know his LA streets).
Quine writes in a style that can best be described as “declamatory.” He favors sharp, casually tossed out observations, often punctuated with an exclamation mark! This sometimes leads his characters to sounding a bit like each other, as well as like the third person narrator. Also, Quine is fond of exposition, and readers may feel like they’re playing catch-up with the book. Thankfully, this is not always the case. If you can survive the first act, the writing grows increasingly smoother, culminating in a hauntingly pretty passage about man’s inhumanity to man and ending up with intense backstories for the Beasts.
THE BEASTS OF ELECTRA DRIVE is, as its cover suggests, perhaps more about style than substance. Readers are told not to judge books by their covers—but this is the future. Maybe that’s the point.
~Colin Newton for IndieReader