If you were to make a list of initially very pulpy things that have become cultural milestones, noir-fiction would be very high up on that list.
And noir also has infinite potential for weird remixes and re-imaginings. The idea of a character who knows next to nothing in the beginning of a story and ends up figuring out a whole lot of things towards the end is a common theme for spec-fic. Especially more imaginative spec-fic.
Look at Blade Runner.
Look at Dark City.
Look at The City & The City.
You should probably also take a look at The Mind is a Razorblade by Max Booth III.
The story follows a man with know name who wakes up naked and sandwiched between two corpses with no memory of who he is and what he’s doing there. And all he has are his wits and his comfort with pulling triggers to guide him. He questions, hurts and kills his way through a narcotic infused, insane dystopia of a city where the cult worship of a god named Conundrae abound in every street corner.
There’s the transport of organs, whole lots of spiders, perhaps one of the the creepiest army of minions I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about and of course, gobs and gobs of plot twists and revelations.
You have all the basic tropes that weird-fiction seems to love right on the tin. You have drugs, cults and confusion. But it also has its fair share of noir tropes. The constant sense of mystery that seems to pervade the narrative, the dame, the guns, the mob bosses, the explosions. You do have all that.
And then, you have a cracker of a central mystery. Who am I? Am I the ‘me’ I was before or the ‘me’ I am now, sans memory with the skills and abilities and sins I seem to have inherited? Why does my head hurt so much?
The pacing is done very right. This is one of those Crank-esque roller coaster rides that never really lets up to give you air. Ever since the main character wakes up till the explosive conclusion, there’s next to no breathing room.
Which rather works for this book. All in all, it was a very fast, very fun sort of read.
There are a few problems with it, though. The prose, for the most part doesn’t try to play too many games with you and stays out of the way, letting you get on with the story and immerse yourself. The dialogue, however seemed a little too uninspired at certain places. And when the ideas and prose are so good, that kind of thing sticks out like a sore tentacle.
The foreshadowing is tasteful and for the most part rather effective but a little bit more fleshing out about the lore and backstory would not have gone amiss.
But for the most part, The Mind is a Razorblade was an intriguing, sharp and delightfully spidery little read and I’m excited to read the rest of Booth’s oeuvre.