The heck with the labels. That’s what I say when faced with writing about Tow Ubukata’s Mardock Scramble: forget about the categories you could slot this book into; forget about what part of the shelf to stick it in. Just plonk yourself in front of it and read it and have an Experience with a capital E. I took notes while reading, and words like “cyberpunk”, “post-SF”, “transhuman”, “anime-inspired” litter the pages. I even wrote what amounted to a slugline: “La Femme Nikita meets William Gibson.” But after a certain point I put the pencil down and just let the book be its inimitable self, and came away equally impressed by its ambition and its emotion. A story that is both this magnificently strange and this deeply felt is best experienced with as little preface as possible. Don’t let me ruin your chances of having a good time with it.
That said, this is a review, so let me do my duty as best I can. Scramble takes place in a near-future city vaguely modeled after New York, where certain key technological advancements (antigravity, dimensional pockets) have taken place albeit behind closed doors and under heavily controlled circumstances. A teenaged prostitute named Rune-Balot almost dies at the hands of her current john, a gambler and schizo nutcase named Shell, but she’s rescued from burning to death in Shell’s limo by a scientist, Easter, and his shapeshifting sidekick, the “All-Purpose Tool” Oeufcoque. The only way they can save her life is by repairing her body with black-market technology, which grants her a remarkable set of powers (cyber-hacking, endurance, speed, etc.). Read more