Posted by: Miles | July 31, 2009

Pulp Fiction: Street Lethal by Steven Barnes pt.1


There are no exaggerations here, this book is too good to embellish.

Published in 1983 Street Lethal is a breathtaking thrill ride punctuated with love, drugs, orgies and the awakening of the human spirit. Set in a near future dystopian Los Angeles we are treated to the usual advancements predicted by every sci-fi book ever written: flying cars, unbreakable plastic and video phones (but only landlines). Our story’s hero must battle through injustice, prisons, torture, drug addiction, underground cities and exotic islands in order to reap revenge, find love, ensure the survival of an underground colony of scavengers and safeguard the future of human intimacy. To do so he will have to learn that only through inner peace can one destroy their enemies.

sLethal_longOur protagonist is Aubrey Knight, who seems to have been given a tough last name to balance out the visions of flower collecting and puppy petting Aubrey gives off. Despite his soft first name Aubrey is all man: a tower of lightning fast muscle. He’s bigger than anyone else in the book- except for the genetically engineered NewMen, who are bred in the male separatist camps of New Mexico and then seemingly released to get huge and act as bouncers or right hand men for crime bosses.

Knight has been training to become a Zero-G Null Boxer, the toughest of sports, where two men slap each other around in a plastic bubble in outer space. These fighters are trained to be so quick and strong that they are faster than physics: they need to break bones before the inertia in space lets their opponent fly away relatively unharmed. And we begin the book with the news that he’s been accepted into the Null Boxing league, too bad for him… You see, while training Aubrey has also been working as an enforcer for The Ortegas, the crime family that rules LA with an empire of drugs, prostitution and extortion. They don’t take kindly to him leaving the family. And, as you would expect any good crime family to do, they have the love of his life, Maxine (who is, of course, secretly a junkie) frame him for murder.

Well… he did kill the man, with his bare hands in fact. In seven quick paragraphs he dispatches an experienced killer who was wielding a ‘chain knife’. However, Maxine trades his freedom for a few hits of the most addictive drug around: South American coal moth larvae. Framed by the woman he loved and sentenced to 12 years in prison, Aubrey swears revenge on both her and the head of the Ortegas. It’s not long before he kills or grievously injures two body armor wearing guards at his regular jail and gets shipped to Death’s Valley: the underground super-max built out of unbreakable plastic. A prison where they shut of the air if a riot breaks out. Luckily with the aid of a limping midget he’s soon escaped the lockup. But not before he’s frustrated the corrupt warden, seen his only friend harvested for organs, killed the entire black market organ running prison gang, gets tortured and wins the respect of his fellow inmates.

On the outside Knight’s quest for revenge gains an accomplice: Promise, a high class prostitute who has had half her skin replaced with light creating plastiskin. Promise is square in the Ortegas sights after Maxine (now reformed from moth larvae but not genetically engineered sex mushrooms) gives her a sample of a mysterious synthetic super drug. All of Promise’s friends and acquaintances suffer painful deaths and soon she has no choice but to team up with Aubrey to royally fuck up the Ortegas. Our sexy new heroin distracts the guards and gets Aubrey into Ortega HQ. Luckily most people are distracted by drug fueled sex orgies and it’s relatively easy to start a naked battle to the death with the head of the family. During the fight Aubrey manages to escape the effects of his prison torture, an inability to think violent or angry thoughts, and strikes down the man who ordered his frame job. A few quick gun fights and flying car chases later and our protagonists find themselves close to death in the underground ruins of earthquake ravaged central LA.

We have just reached the middle of the book.

part two to follow soon…



  1. Where’s part 2???

  2. Yeah! Where’s part 2?

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