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Book Review: Strange Flesh by Michael Olson

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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.

Michael OlsonIn 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.

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About Georganna Hancock

Retired San Diego publisher, journalist, freelance editor and writer, blogged almost daily for eight years at A WRITERS EDGE. She helped writers on the path to writing success with critiques, edits and publishing advice. Find her author page on Amazon and her tweets on Twitter, where she's aka @GLHancock. Georganna's first writing appeared in print in the 1960s. She worked as a journalist for many years. She reviewed books for the FORT PIERCE NEWS TRIBUNE and THE LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL and wrote for THE MIAMI HERALD, regional publications, and many national magazines. She was a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the San Diego Professional Editors Network and the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, for which she served as Web Manager. Books reviewed may have been received as gifts. All her writings are protected by U.S. copyright law.
  • scott butki

    well, I can’t make that deadline but I can promise an interview with this author coming to blogcritics in the next few days. I have his answers in my email but I want to read the last 30 pages before I read his responses. If you want i’ll share a link when I publish it