Recently Tor Books and Heavy Metal Magazine launched Heavy Metal Pulp, their collaborative line of noir science fiction books, with Pleasure Model, the first installment of the Netherworld trilogy written by Christopher Rowley with interior art by Justin Norman. Gregory Manchess’s cover aptly illustrates both the essence of the new line and what to expect from Pleasure Model, with the scantily clad beauty and the evil and futuristic robot harkening back to paperback covers of detective and science fiction books from the pulp age of the mid-20th Century.
While Rowley’s action-packed narrative, filled with guns and soft-core sex definitely brings to mind those early detective novels, the proliferation of black-and-white illustrations takes the line into new territory—the trade paperback/graphic novel hybrid.
The 238-page novel has nearly as well over 100 illustrations, with one or more of them on most pages.
The title refers to cloned human beings purchased usually to be used as sex toys. Although they are illegal in the United States, pleasure models are readily available on the black market from other countries and underground sources. Although these clones come with barely enough intelligence to be regarded as human, they can be upgraded with add-ons that can make them formidably intelligent and agile.
The narrative begins with Mistress Julia, a high-priced dominatrix, preparing to give a muscle-bound client a good whipping. As she is cleaning up, assassins break in and blow the guy away. The mistress avoids the same fate by hiding under the bathroom sink and escapes before the cops arrive.
When detective Rook Venner examines the scene, he not only finds the whipped and dead victim—a retired army general with secret connections—but a beautiful blond pleasure model, a virgin still in the box. She hasn’t even been named yet and simply goes by Plesur. But rather than using Plesur for sexual gratification, the general has hidden a secret in her brain, a secret that both the general’s murderers and the government are after. Before long Venner, Mistress Julia, and Plesur are on the run, fugitives from both sides.
Expect lots of explosions, martial arts, dead guys, car chases, futuristic weapons, naked women—and men—and all of the stuff that makes B-movies and adult graphic novels fun.
And the fun doesn’t end with Pleasure Model; the sequel The Bloodstained Man comes out in June, and the final installment, Money Shot, follows in the fall. I’m looking forward to both, and to not waiting the typical year between series books. Titles by other authors and illustrators are also forthcoming from Heavy Metal Pulp.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper for over 20 years. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly three decades in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.