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Strange Flesh by Michael Olson

Strange Flesh

by Michael Olson

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634278,053 (3.09)1

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I'm still reading this but....

I'm gonna start off by saying I don't swear much (and that is very true), but holy fuck, this book is weird. What's even more disturbing than that is that I'm somewhat familiar with the darker places on the internet, and yet this novel still creeps me out. And I'm only half-way through. I'll have to revise my review once I finish it though...

Edit: I'm now finished.

Ummmm..... OK. Not entirely sure how I'm gonna review this. I guess I'll start with the obvious. This book is twisted, dark, and if you're unfamiliar with the darkness of humankind very, very scary. I was rather unsure of what to rate this and decided in the end to rate it the same way as I did with [b:Lolita|7604|Lolita|Vladimir Nabokov|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327871906s/7604.jpg|1268631], lowering the score due to my reaction with the content (this is in no way defined by how good - or bad - the writing is). The sex is not as graphic as some while definitely more hardcore than others, and perhaps for different readers either the point that hooks them onto the story, or totally turns them off. (u c wat i did thar? hurr hurr) I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. So now that I'm done addressing the sex, I guess I need to get to reviewing the story.
“The only clue we have to our brother’s whereabouts is this place that doesn’t really exist.” Ten years ago, Blythe Randall broke James Pryce’s heart. Now she needs his help. Her enigmatic appeal lures the elite hacker into his most tantalizing, and most personal, assignment yet. A Harvard dropout employed by Manhattan-based RedRook Security, James makes a living finding people who don’t want to be found, pursuing their digital tracks around the globe, flushing out criminals, and exacting creative high-tech revenge on behalf of his clients. But this time he’s following his target—billionaire multimedia artist Billy Randall—into an exotic and treacherous world: a virtual one. Capping off an erratic, increasingly violent series of stunts meant to plague his family’s media empire, black sheep Billy sends a video of his own suicide to his older siblings, aristocratic twins Blythe and Blake. In it, Billy “jacks out,” reanimating onscreen as an avatar in a decadent online world called NOD. The performance is pure Billy—he has always been obsessed with “the Bleed”: the moment when real and virtual selves intersect, where actions in one life breed consequences in another. Blythe uses her influence to install James at GAME, a downtown media collective and one of Billy’s recent haunts. Posing as a documentarian, James gains access to a small band of artists and programmers—contemporaries, and in some cases enemies, of Billy Randall—whose top secret project represents the holy grail of virtual reality. Meanwhile, James learns that as part of his most recent scheme, Billy himself has designed a lavish alternate reality game, an escalating, high-stakes virtual landscape of strange flesh. In order to find him, James must play along. From this description you could be forgiven for thinking that this is about following Billy into a VR (virtual reality). It's not. What is really happening is that Billy is desingning a game, one that is more like an Easter egg hunt with clues online, and the objects exist in the real world. Enough about that because any more and I will run into spoilers. Also it's because there was not much more to the story than that. One hint though; If you are familiar with the way mystery writers work, you'll see the culprit long before the reveal, as Olsen is a tad contrived about the whole pro/antagonist thing. My biggest problem with "Strange Flesh" is the technology makes very litte sense. You have practical VR's right along side your average PC. We're talking about tech that is right from this time period, and beside it is something that doesn't yet exist. I see from some reviews here on goodreads that people don't understand some of the tech references, but for me it's the attempt to marry the tech of now and the tech of tomorrow seamlessly. It doesn't work. Finally the main character James Pryce bothers me. I could never properly place him. First he started of as a hacker, kinda geeky but good with computers (the geeky part is rather stereotypical, but anyway...), then he shows himself to be a people person. Fine so far. Halfway through the book however, the author decideds that he must also be good in a fight, and have a gun. I could not define at any point through the book who Pryce was, so I could never truly connect with him. The one thing I will give Michael Olsen is that despite all these flaws, I still finished the book and was not frustrated while reading it (at least not any more than when reading other books.) So to finish off:
2 stars for content. 2 stars for writing. 3 stars because I still enjoyed it, for an average of 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 stars. ( )
  lafon | Mar 31, 2013 |
I normally try not to leave a review for books that I wasn't able to make it through, but this one really put me off. I was expecting a super awesome sexy techno thriller, but all I got was some male porno-tech fantasy. BORING. If I wanted to read about how some dude wishes he could have real sex via the internet I'd stay on World of Warcraft instead of reading... ( )
  lovejoy_rat | Jul 11, 2012 |

When I started hearing about Strange Flesh from other reviewers, I knew that I wanted to get my hands on a copy, and Simon and Schuster was kind enough to send me an ARC. Others were equating it to 120 Days of Sodom, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, and Ready Player One, books I had thoroughly enjoyed; so I was definitely interested. Unfortunately, I felt that Strange Flesh was lacking many of the components the aforementioned books contained. Yes, the main character was hard to decipher, and technology (virtual reality, the internet, smartphones...) took a prominent role, but where was all the action? I find that most of the story is lost behind unnecessary definition and technical rigmarole; I do not know why Michael Olsen thinks it is obligatory to describe acts and processes that most people able to read the book would already understand, (sex, tech, etc...). I was not a fan of the characters either, they fell flat and evoked close to 0% sympathy from me. A character that started out with potential, James, just became a twisted mass of multiple personalities; from hacker to gunslinger within 200 pages. Do not even get me started on the female characters, because they were all stereo-typically objectified - there was not a strong female in the bunch - just women, sex, and games; the book's noted premise. Speaking of, why does every situation have to be laced with cheap twisted sex scenes? Most people expect a little well-developed heat in a book like this one, especially looking at the cover, but the graphic sexual content felt more prostrate and depraved than sexy and gratifying, most times wanton. Parts of the plot had redeeming qualities, but a book that takes 200+ pages to capture the readers attention will not excite readers. Maybe this book would be better as a hyped-up film, but it is definitely not bestselling novel material. I am not sure that I am comfortable recommending this book to others.

Rating: DNR (2/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. ( )
1 vote Allizabeth | Jun 10, 2012 |
I won this book from a contest run by the publisher, that it no way affects the contents of my review.

I don't want to give away too much plot with this review because the book won't be out until April, but what I can tell you is that this book will blow your mind. This book is not for the faint of heart; it contains sadism, sex, futuristic sex, heart-racing action scenes, and a final twist that will leave you floored. This book also has a some hacker-speak in it, but it wasn't confusing for someone who doesn't know about hacking (myself included). I can definitely see the comparisons to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but to me this book is on a whole different playing field. ( )
  dpappas | Dec 22, 2011 |
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for my parents
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The human mind is prone to infection.
Evan as Sodom and Gomorrah...giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. -- Jude 1:7
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Harvard drop-out and computer hacker James Pryce is hired by his ex-girlfriend, Blythe, to find her brother Billy, a billionaire multimedia artist. To find him, James must enter the alternative reality game created by Billy.

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