Babylon Babies Mass Market Paperback – Jul 29 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Explosive and paranoid, this futuristic fable by French sci-fi novelist Dantec explores the frightening ramifications of genetic experimentation. In a constantly shifting world conflict circa 2013, violent-minded (though well-read) Hugo Cornelius Toorop, a 20-year Special Forces veteran of the Bosnian conflict, is offered a lucrative new job by the Siberian mafia in Kazakhstan to transport a young woman to Montreal. Who is Marie Zorn, and what does she carry that is top secret? Armed with new identities and the requisite grenades, Hugo, along with his expert team—the gun-happy Israeli Rebecca Waterman and the hard-core Belfast rebel Dowie—get her to Montreal, where it becomes clear that Marie is a pawn in a vast, pernicious artificial biosphere program and that, moreover, she's pregnant, feared to be carrying an animal clone, and thus contaminated. The nimble, hyperbolic Dantec creates a surreal alternate identity for her on the streets of Quebec through a kind of virtual death. Toorop is pressed by a New Age army of cyborgs (aka Cosmic Dragons) to find Marie and bring her back, and under drug experiments he penetrates the double helix to achieve a surprisingly humanistic conclusion. Riddled with acronyms and pop culture allusions, this is an intense, intellectually labyrinthine ride. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"Dantec has created a compelling story with evocative ideas that may prove even more illuminating with subsequent readings, and a reader who undertakes the arduous journey from cover to cover will be rewarded with an entertaining tale." Arthur Bangs sffworld.com
"Dantec is a literary revolution." Science Fiction
" Babylon Babies, an under-appreciated novel by French punk rocker turned writer Maurice G. Dantec, deserves a wider audience, and not just because its author is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Michel Houellebecq (and definitely not because the book is being adapted into a movie starring Vin Diesel)... what makes this novel (translated by Noura Wedell) so haunting is its vision of a near future in which society has fractured along every possible national, tribal and sectarian fault line." New York Times Book Review
"Riddled with acronyms and pop culture allusions, this is an intense, intellectually labyrinthine ride." Publishers Weekly
"[T]his novel by Maurice Dantec was an epic ride." ThickOnline.com
"The book deals with the breakdown of community and political certainty. It is gingered with snippets from Dantec's favourite philosophers and loaded with thoughts of his own. The result is a real workout for the reader. Babylon Babies is a vast encyclopedia of the future as seen through a crystal ball with cracks in the glass.... Babylon Babies is part of a genre that makes play with religious ideas. You might call it theo-fiction." The Sydney Morning Herald--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The movie is only okay - it really seemed to be lacking in story and character development. I happen to like Vin Diesel and can be satisfied sometimes with mediocre sci-fi movies so it was fine for me.
As a fast-paced tome of more than 500 pages employing a high-level vocabulary, I quickly found that the book has a lot more to say than the movie, which is only a shadow of the book and deviates from it quite a bit.
As for the book, I was drawn in instantly even though I had no prior conception that I'd actually like the book - unlike some books where it takes me a few chapters to decide if I'm going to like it or not. With this one, you'll probably know right away, and your reaction will probably be pretty strong one way or the other.
I found Cornelius Hugo Toorop to be an interesting and engaging character, and I'd be happy to read a whole series of books about him - an aging dope-smoking almost-Muslim intellectual mercenary killer of Central Asian wars with the strategic brain of a general but without the ambition or coldness of a warlord, who is drawn into a vision quest that leads him to improbable yet sentimental fatherhood.
As for the big plot, even though you can tell what's coming if you pay any attention, it draws you along and keeps you turning pages to find out how things will play out to their conclusion. The level of drama and revolution in the climax for the characters doesn't translate fully to the reader - but it remains satisfying. The most satisfying element for me was the evolution of the main character to his next stage of life, coinciding with the next stage of human evolution itself, although I felt somewhat dissatisfied with the psychotropic vision quest of Toorop - it fits well in the world created by Dantec, but it seemed a bit stunted and slightly artificial as a vehicle for Toorop's evolution.
And while some people surely hate it, I liked Dantec's technobabble acid-trip-esque writing style, to a point - it carried me into another strange parallel world that was sci-fi, cyberpunk, and tripped-out. The impatient, conventional, or fledgling reader will likely find it indigestible. If you liked Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, you might like this.
There were too many pages spent on characters too strange or flat to connect to, although they seemed to exist only as vehicles for advancement of story and not so much in interest for them. Also a bit too much writing was spent in trying to explain or describe the inexplicable/indescribable just so you get a sense of how inexplicable/indescribable it is supposed to be without really believing it.
Sexuality is a central theme, as is post-apocalyptic destruction by religious sects, motorcycle gangs and other strange chaotic denizens of Dantec's weird creation. Oh, and graphic language exists throughout - so this is probably not the best choice for a junior high reading circle.
The cloak and dagger form of other cyberpunk is evident here except it is metted out at a more measured pace. Dantec creates a unique cast of characters who evolve over the life of the story. The unusual locations (at least for most American fiction) like ex-Russian states and China set the novel apart from similar titles.
The central mystery slowly builds to a satisfying conclusion wrapping up the major plot points while leaving open the otion for a sequel. It would be interesting to see what the author would do in a sequel further expanding on the fascinating philosophy of evolution just touched on at the end of the novel.
A beautiful schizophrenic carrying a genetically modified fetus.
Battling biotech cults.
The Russian mob, the Hell's Angels, and a rebellion in western China.
An artificial intelligence named Joe-Jane who thinks like Deleuze.
Basically what you have here is a sharp, stylish near-future adventure, with a style somewhere between a standard sci-fi thriller and a postmodern novel. It's a beautiful perfusion of weirdness. It's more style than substance -- Dantec isn't really interested in science or plausibility, and if you read with a critical eye it shows. A lot of the technology is just plugged in as convenient magic, and very little of it is truly innovative. If you're used to science fiction that actually goes to new places, you'll be disappointed. But if you suspend disbelief, it's a hell of a ride, and it makes Montreal look like easily the coolest city in the world.
For some reason, these settings make me want to stay indoors all day and just indulge in this wasteland epic. I saw the movie Babylon A.D first, and I loved the setting it had. Migrants crossing the Bering Strait, which will be a actual real bridge sometime in the future. Submarines sneaking people into North America. Drones, drugs, religion, mercenaries, violence, and beauty are all part of this masterpiece. I will finish it soon but I love what I have read so far. Epic cyberpunk-post-modern novel. If you want something similar, I recommend Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things--By Richard Calder.