‘What could be a more genuine case than a murder investigation?’: A Review of Independent Investigators Inc.

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I should’ve known what I was in for when I picked up Independent Investigators Inc..  I should’ve known after I read the title. I should’ve known after poring over the cover. I should’ve known after consuming the first sentence. And I should’ve known when I laid my tablet to rest.   

Written by the beardly writer, Ryan Sebastian, Independent Investigators Inc. is what you expect from a novel with the title Independent Investigators Inc.; a humble attempt at writing pastiche with a fusion of the hard-boiled noir figure trapped in the neon highlights of the dystopic SF.  

The synopsis is, as follows:

‘Louis Berker likes to think of himself as a hard-boiled private investigator. He has a trench coat, cigarettes, frosted glass door with his name on it, and most importantly; incisive eyes that see all three levels of C-City as they really are, full of crime, injustice, and invasive advertising. When a murder investigation comes crashing into his life, his meagre experience and anachronistic affectations will be put to the test. Can Louis clear up the conspiracies that crouch at the core of this convoluted case, or will he merely become its next casualty?’

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The cover explains it all, really.

Inc. is first, and foremost, a love letter to the genre in which Sebastian has grown to love; and it is obvious that the novel was written with effort and great passion. The world is rich, at times, interesting, and vibrant; the concept of a three-tiered city (as the artwork on the cover suggests) is something reminiscent of elder SF. It’s not a very complicated story, and flows very well, especially if you are reading it like a true cyberpunker on your tablet, like me. There are some instances of missed capitalisations, poorly indented paragraphs, and fragmented chapters; but overall, it remains decently edited for an indie piece.

Inc. follows the generic plot of detective fiction–murder, investigation, twists, turns, ending; while the characters are quite dull. Though at times tongue-in-cheek funny, they simply fill the generic stereotype that readers have been following since the forties.

As a work of pastiche, however, the novel fails to hit the high marks that true pastiche tends to capture. It’s safe, and almost too tame for cyberpunk; and there was never a time in which I felt as if I was reading a brooding noir piece, or a high techy piece of SF. Sentences like, ‘a ceramic ashtray was filled with actual organic used cigarette stubs’ or ‘he mentally formed a huge tirade about outdated technology’ are both too tell-y, feel unauthentic and forcefully shoved into novel; and names like Underseedy (I see what you did there), $renda, Hild# and Etumio @trige are both cringeworthy, and unnecessary. This litters the entirety of Sebastian’s writing, and unfortunately, there was never a subtle moment. Neuromancer works because it doesn’t force elements down the reader’s throat, allowing for a far more nuanced, and affective mode of storytelling. The same could be said for P.K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Allow the reader to digest imagery, and dissect dialogue.

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‘The city streets were mostly empty, and anything left was drenched in vibrant and flickering shades of neon, the moon hidden by the secondary metropolis above’, artwork by alexiuss.

‘But Dann,’ I hear, ‘this is what pastiche is supposed to be about! This is not supposed to be original, nothing’s original, you’re not original!?’; to which I say, yes, nothing’s original, but that doesn’t mean you have to be lazy. There is no such thing as true originality, never has been, and never will be, but an essence of flair comes from the individual’s unique writing style. Sebastian’s style doesn’t stand out as unique, nor does it feel interesting; and writing pastiche doesn’t simply mean inclusions of hashtag#’s or at@’s, it means playing with, and challenging, an already established genre, akin to how Neal Stephenson reworked cyberpunk with his novels Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, or what Richard K. Morgan did with his Altered Carbon series.

Inc. is, however, solely not without merit, and does have interesting moments scattered throughout. It’s relatively short, and can be read under a day or two, so if you’re in for some casual junk food, then this might be the novel for you. It’s, as mentioned above, a love letter the genre of cyberpunk, and that’s often enough for most readers.

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‘Appearance was important to the office’, artwork by Carlos Fuentes.

If you’re interested in checking out, and purchasing the novel, you can do so here. You can also follow Sebastian on his website.

If you’ve read the novel, please leave comments down in the doobly-doo, and if you have any further suggestions on what I should review next, don’t hesitate to contact me here or via Twitter.

Independent Investigators Inc. – 4/10

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