K.W. Jeter: Farewell Horizontal

Farewell Horizontal
K.W. Jeter
Grafton paperback edition 1990
253 pages

Science fiction has produced many strange worlds and settings for stories. K.W. Jeter's latest contribution is set on the outside of a VERY large cylindrical building. The building is so gigantic that an entire civilisation exists on its sides with an appropriate technology to match. It is unlikely that such a building could possibly ever exist - a ringworld would be a better bet. However little details like the laws of physics are not going to stop Jeter from telling a good story - and it is a damn good story.

The plot centres about a bored office worker from inside the building (the Horizonal) who has chosen to start a new life on the outside (the Vertical) as a sort of freelance video artist and journalist. He moves around the side of the building on a (suitably modified) replica Norton Interstate 850 motorbike. His work brings him into contact and conflict with one of the major bike gangs that inhabit the Vertical. The story revolves around this conflict and what happens as a result. In addition there is the usual crop of deep dark secrets, helpful but mysterious strangers, large mercenary corporations and exotic female aliens.

The story is well structured and coherent - probably more so than any of the author's previous work. But the real power of this work is in the writing style. Jeter is a disciple of Philip K. Dick and this shows clearly in all his work. All the ideas, intensity and relevance that are associated with Dick are present in abundance in Jeter's work. As if this is not good enough, in his more recent work he has adopted the pace and hi-tech of the cyberpunk authors. The result is an explosive but highly readable prose style.

At about 250 pages, Farewell Horizontal is of a modest length by current standards. Do not let this put you off. There is enough story and enough quality in this book for any five volume epic.

Overall rating: Chocolate coated coffee beans.