Book Review: Mardock Scramble
Mardock Scramble: by Tow Ubukata. This was a very unique book. For one, it’s cyberpunk which seems to be a dying genre. (evidently kept alive in Japan for which I thank them.) Also, its a Japanese novel translated into English. Also, and I just learned this after reading the book, its now becoming an anime.
First, let me warn you that this book isn’t exactly rated PG. It’s very harsh in its themes, use of violence and sex. The main character is a 15 year old girl named Balot and she is a child prostitute who, at the opening of the book is essentially a slave to a man named Shell. (Japanese always give their characters strange names, but in this book the names actually have a lot of significance.) Shell aside from being a pedophile, is also a serial killer and Balot doesn’t know that she’s his next victim. He traps her in a car and blows the car up, the book is pretty graphic in the injuries Balot sustains in the explosion, but she manages to barely survive. Burnt to a crisp, she is rescued by a doctor and his pet transforming mouse. The mouse is a military experiment and it’s an AI that can transform into almost anything.
The doctor transplants a metalic skin to the badly burned Balot. This new cyber skin can read and control all electronic activity around her. She can control radios, computers and use sense everything around her. This also speeds up her thought process and bodily reactions. When the mouse transforms into a bullet proof body suite she basically becomes unstoppable. And this is where the book shines. The action scenes are intense with a capital “I’m gonna crap my pants.” She’s shooting an oversized gun full auto with every bullet going exactly where she wants it. She takes out a whole squad of killer assassins with ease, like its a game. (the assassins, the Bandersnatch Gang are actually really disgusting and the author may have gone a little overboard with making us loath them.) But she kills them very smoothly. However, Shell has a henchman named “Boiled” and if Balot is the unstoppable force, he’s the unmovable object. He can control gravity (like Sullivan from Grimnoir, by Larry Correia) and when her hail of lethally aimed bullets flies toward Boiled, they his his gravity field and miss. He’s only vulnerable when he’s shooting, but he has a giant hand cannon (literally) and she’s doing her best to shoot his bullets out of the air while looking for an opening. There’s an awesome part where she controls a car to run into him but he leaps to the ceiling of the parking garage while everything blows up around him. He’s standing on the ceiling with fire all around and his coat blowing in the blasts. Hes one bad A. He’s also unstoppable and he keeps coming and coming and the heroes, despite all their power, can do nothing but try to run away. I say “try.” There’s also a large part of the book that’s like the movie “Casino Royale” where to get data chips with information about Shell, they have to use their powers and win against the house. Admittedly this part kinda drags but it all comes together and at the end you’ll be fist pumping and shouting “Halleluiah!” You really do want Balot to win because you feel nothing but sympathy for her. She’s been abused all her life and treated like a thing, but now she’s starting to find out who she is and what her real worth is…all the while killing really bad men and shooting thousands of bullets in a 100+ page bloodbath.
This book isn’t for everyone. The harshness will turn away some and the pages and pages of philosophical debate will turn away others. Everyone Balot meets seems to want to discuss the meaning of life or why they kill. Sometimes they do it while they’re blasting away at each other. It’s a really long book but I didn’t want it to end. And that right there is probably the best compliment I could give it. I was highly entertained and made me see the art of story telling in a different way.