This just released: Simon & Schuster’s “adult publishing group” novel Strange Flesh, debut novel by Michael Olson. I thought it was a story of incest. This is the sentence that gave me that impression: “But it is also a story about brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, love, lust, betrayal, and revenge.” Boy! Was I ever self-misguided! True, a family with three siblings are involved, the Randalls, and truly kinky sex takes place. And kinky snuff videos. And kinky computer engineering. And, oh, we cannot leave out the desperately kinky cyber games.
A few times online, in Twitter messages, I posted this code from the back of the book’s cover: (strangeFlesh == (sex && games)) hoping for a geeky contact to unravel the message. None responded, leaving me to conclude, before I finished reading the book, that this is all there is. No incest, just real life and virtual games and sex, both of them rough. And sometimes indistinguishable, as in real rough cyber sex games.
The basic plot is that underdog cyber sleuth James Pryce competes with the elite Randall family to one-up each other in a search to save or eliminate themselves in a dynamic complicated by a decade-old relationship in college. The Randalls, Billy, Blake, and Blythe, are heirs to a media empire that Pryce worms his true and virtual self into. Much of the action involves multimedia multiuser computer games and programmer inside jokes or references. This leads me to suspect the greater readership that will enjoy Strange Flesh the most are hackers young and old (if still practicing), the youngest generations raised on virtual reality games, and perverts who are aficionados of the Marquise de Sade variety. Literally.
In fact, on April 2, 2012, Olson complained in his new blog, mike olson’s strange flashes, about ‘having one’s book enter into a discussion about “torture porn” ah…. hurts.’ This blog was not available when I tried to research Olson as a write — I could find only the Simon & Schuster page on the book, www.strangeflesh.net and a basic Amazon Author Central page without the blog feed. Essentially the same information also appears in Olson’s recently established Facebook account.
According to the publisher, Olson graduated Harvard and has a master’s degree from NYU’s Interactive Technology Program. He’s taught there, too, about Massively Multiuser Media (cyber games). He was there around 2006-2007 to “concentrate on writing fiction.” In the interim he’s apparently moved to Los Angeles, where a “coming out” party for the book took place the other night. I hope it was a costume party and someone posts pics soon.
One can only imagine the antics that took place. I could not recommend this book as a satisfying mystery, but once I did have to stop reading and take a shower and another time, change the sheets. I also enjoyed many of the plays on words from the world of computing, though the thinly-veiled references to existing companies and organizations seems a bit childish.