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Review © 2002 T. M. Wagner.
Book cover art by Keith Birdsong.


Another exercise in sin and sleaze from the envelope-pushing (and some might say taste-impaired) Devenport, Scorpianne tells us the singularly unappealing tale of a veteran prostitute named Lucy Cartier who finds herself on the run from an attempt on her life. Someone has rigged the robotic penis she uses in her virtual sex acts with a big knife, just so there's no mistaking this for family entertainment.

Someone's killing whores, and they're using the sex machines that said whores couple with (their johns manipulate these machines on their end) to do it. So we get some grisly accounts of horribly mangled dead prostitutes, with special attention paid to the level of genital mutilation they've suffered. Lucy finds herself stalked by Scorpianne, a shadowy female assassin, who sends a machine after Lucy, Terminator-style. Scorpianne taunts Lucy by raping her with the machine, just to let her know how powerless she is. Are you enjoying this so far? Hey, in the first forty pages you get Lucy's attempted murder, then a rape/mutilation murder of one of Lucy's friends, then Lucy's rape by Scorpianne. I sense a pattern here. Emily, what's up with you?

Seeking to expose the secrets behind the biotech firm she thinks may be responsible for her friends' deaths, Lucy finds herself caught up in an incipient war between Earth and Mars. And all the while she continues to be stalked by the evil and rapacious Scorpianne.

Folks, I hope you're aware that I'm not one to make hyperbolic statements one way or the other, but this novel is just a loathsome piece of crap. If you get further than fifty pages into it, you really deserve some kind of medal. I don't have any problem at all with sexually explicit material (check Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart to see how to do this kind of thing right), but Devenport seems to lack any understanding of sex at all outside of its shock value. The thing is, in this day and age, there are few sexual taboos left to shock us, which means that the novel's nonstop smut is little more than exploitive and disgusting. It isn't even really good porn; who would be aroused by this stuff? John Wayne Gacy? Oh, wait, he was into boys.

And these characters? I do not like them, Sam I Am. There's not enough development going on, and what hints we have of Lucy's past describe a pretty nihilistic future of war and strife, both on Earth and off. Perhaps there are some readers out there who will find Devenport's approach admirably edgy. I think edginess takes a certain degree of sophistication and finesse. Devenport has neither. In fact, she's so ham-handed with the adult content it seems like she's simply testing to see what her editor will let her get away with.

Devenport's prose remains as accessible and competent as it was in Larissa, but this novel's story makes Larissa look like Lord of the Rings. That Devenport is a writer who could probably turn in some pretty damn good science fiction if only she'd outgrow her adolescent fixation with sleaze is a powerful source of frustration. But it's not a frustration that lasts for long. After all, there are thousands of better SF books by hundreds of better writers out there. It's a simple matter to move on to one of them, and leave Devenport's work under the mattress with all the old issues of Hustler and Swank, where it belongs.