Book Review: Maul by Tricia Sullivan

Maul by Tricia Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:   In a mall like any other, two gangs of teenaged girls are about to embark on an orgy of shopping and designer violence. In the battleground of cool, they'll fight for their lives to prove that "image is everything." And in another place, within a sealed room, a lone man fights an equally desperate war against a new virus and the scientists who have developed it. If anyone gets out alive, it will be a small miracle.

Maul is told with two parallel stories. Teenage fashionistas in a mall getting their fashion & gunplay on & a male test subject plugged into a game in a habitat at a research facility in a female dominant society. They're fascinating threads on their own that converge in a very interesting way.

Sun Katz is the main teen we follow at the maul & she's a great character. From the first page, it's pretty clear that she's got other things going on than just what shoes & lip gloss she's going to wear for the day. Sun & her girlfriends wear holstered guns as fashion accessories & the inherent problem in this becomes apparent when a typical squabble at the Estee Lauder counter between two groups of girls goes all hail of bullets & smashed up perfume displays. It's all a bit video game & pulpy but it's fun & engaging to read what happens as Sun flees the scene & has other "adventures" in the maul. I know that this is just half of the story but I found it all so engaging that I quite feel it could have stood on its own.

Meniscus is the test subject in the other story & he's been infected with Az97. He's often in pain & he's blue. He has an experience that almost kills him & he's basically taken out of NoSystems (the Mall game). His handlers are women who work at the research facility & I can honestly say, they're all odious. But in a deliciously terrible way that you can't stop reading about. We learn about the society in which they live & a bit about how women's ascendancy & men being relegated to something called a Pigwalk came to be. It's a twisted society but not so different in some ways from the one in which we exist so it's relatable. There's a murder-by-passive-infection plot that is put into motion by one of the women at the research facility & Arnie Henshaw (a prime Pigwalk contender) & we meet Starry Eyes/Carerra. He is a lot of the worst of people in general but he's also one of the most unvarnished & honest players here, so you don't really want him to die. I admit that I did tire of him abusing Meniscus rather quickly & no one giving a damn. In fairness, SE was treated mercilessly as well by the handlers & society in general. This side of the story is a little slow going at first but by the middle of the book you can see how both sides are running in tandem & where they converge. Then it's a ripping time where everything in both stories is amped up to the finish where both wind up on a highway with a lone wolf. Game over.

I would say there's a "big reveal" where you realize what is real & what isn't but I didn't really have that (maybe others do). The hallmarks are there throughout & it just winds tighter & tighter between the stories as you go along. I found it satisfying but have to admit that I was a little sad that some of the characters I adored were only virtual. Funny thing to say about characters in a book. It was a nice bit of mind twisting to try & determine what was influencing who & when from each side of the story.

This was the first book I've read by Tricia Sullivan but it won't be my last. I bought my copy in paperback as it wasn't available on Kindle (but is being reissued on Kindle for the AmazonUK store). I hope Ms. Sullivan will be offering her titles on the US Amazon Kindle shop soon.

View all my reviews

No comments