Silicon Valley has taken virtual sex to the extreme, encouraging men to act out their darkest and most violent sexual fantasies. Militant feminists and churches are bitterly opposed. Powerful corporations battle for market control. In the midst of a fierce protest campaign, a bomb goes off in San Francisco.

Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a gun, a badge and a handheld lie detector. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber before he strikes again.

Madsen plunges headlong into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual and the web of corruption extends all the way to Washington … only to discover the stakes are higher than he could ever imagine.


 (Review copy provided by the publishers via Netgalley.)

As author Bruce McCabe discusses in a Q&A with his publisher Random House, Skinjob is more techno-thriller than science fiction. Nevertheless, the book should appeal to fans of both genres. McCabe’s writing style is clean and utilitarian, and serves the subject matter and the novel’s fast pace well. With perhaps the exception of the hyper-real “skinjobs”, the sex dolls after which the novel is named, most of the science is very-near-future, and as such feels immaculately researched and completely plausible. McCabe weaves all his futuristic tech-threads together seamlessly with timeless human conflict and desires to create a believable glimpse into a world soon to be.

Most of the story revolves around the protagonist Daniel Madsen’s battle; against the villains who are many and various, against time, and against the law enforcement system that he is sworn to uphold. But some page space is given to exploring the ethical and societal implications of using human replicas for sexual gratification. McCabe does not preach, but puts forward two opposing and equally compelling points of view: one from refined feminist Eva Hartley, who asserts that dollhouses contribute to the objectification and mistreatment of women, and the other from flamboyant sex shop owner Eddie, who sees no sin in sexual activity between consenting adults (or between a consenting adult and his inanimate props of choice).

With its American setting, topical themes, engaging characters and the aforementioned cracking pace, the story is ripe for a blockbuster movie adaptation (I wouldn’t be at all surprised if McCabe has already written the accompanying screenplay).



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