by Ron Goulart
Series: Chameleon Corps 3
Reviewed date: 2018 Jun 4
Rating: 1
159 pages
cover art
cover art

Worst cover art ever
The Flux paperback has the worst science fiction cover art I have ever encountered. The blue. Oh the blue! That flat featureless blue. Not the deep azure blue of a bright sky. Not the sparkling cerulean of the Caribbean Sea. It's more like someone emptied a paint bucket onto a cheap plywood wall. It's a solid barrier of blue. It's unsettling.

And in front of the blue wall: hippie robot Jesus. You can tell he's a hippie because of his long flowing hair, but he's a robot and will someone please explain why a robot has hair?

There's zero sense of depth, so the bizarre castle behind hippie robot Jesus looks like a cardboard cutout. But it's all wrong. It's a medieval castle complete with turrets and battlements, but the top of the castle is a giant Mayan pyramid topped off with the Dome from the U.S. Capitol Building!

No no no no no no no no no. No.

Super Spy
Ben Jolson works for the Chameleon Corps, a spy bureau whose agents can change their appearance to perfectly impersonate any individual. The Political Espionage Office (PEO) calls Jolson to the planet Jasper to investigate a bizarre youth uprising: the Suicide Kids are strapping bombs to themselves and blowing themselves up in barbaric acts of terrorism.

Racist and Sexist
Jasper isn't just your run-of-the-mill planet, though. Oh no. Jasper is themed. Some towns have an Old West theme, where everyone dresses and talks like cowboys and the entertainment is a charismatic faux-Indian guy by the name of Chief Naked Dance. Another town's theme is old Manhattan, where robot cops beat up robot black people in the streets, and it's all hilarious period entertainment. If you're getting the idea that the book is slightly racist, you're right on the nose. It's also sexist: Jolson runs into another Chameleon Corps agent, the sexy female Agent X, who exists only for Jolson to sleep with. Then there's the whole Jack the Ripper gag, where one psychopathic character reins in his bloodlust by modeling his life after Jack the Ripper: he only has to murder one woman a week or so to satisfy his craving for murder. It's supposed to be funny. Maybe in 1974 violence against women was a big laugh, huh?

You know what else was a big laugh in 1974? Cross-dressing. Hilarious. And dwarfs. Yeah, little people are funny. One of the opening scenes is a group therapy session where everyone in the group takes turns ignoring and denigrating the dwarf. Also, blind people are funny, and so is calling people f----ts. Flux is a laugh a minute.


The Plot
Jolson's job is to find the ringleader of the Suicide Kids, an enigmatic man named Sunflower. He also is looking for Bronzini, a previous Chameleon Corps agent who disappeared while investigating Sunflower. Disguised as Will Mendoza, Jolson spends time in the Old West themed zone, which was my favorite part of the book. It was genuinely funny, and I loved the way everyone threw themselves into character, even talking like stereotypical cowboys. Jolson's other disguises are Tunky Nesper, a blues musician; Mowgli, a prolific and loud-talking author; a poet named Bugs Mainey. In the end, he finds Bronzini working for Sunflower. It turns out Bronzini has a daughter, Marina, who is part of Sunflower's cult, and to protect her, Bronzini switched allegiances. But we can't have that. Jolson and Bronzini arrest Sunflower. The end.

The Absurdity
The book isn't really about the plot. It's more about the absurdity of the situations. The robots are morose and depressed and have a deadpan sense of humor. The people are about the same. The themed areas of Jasper give Goulart plenty of different settings to play with. It's just too bad so much of the humor is in poor taste.

One thing I found funny that probably wasn't meant to be: the university professor named Tim Hootman. Heh. I read it as Tim Horton every time. That guy should open a coffee shop.

Archive | Search