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Go Ratchet!
by Asa Butcher
2007-11-11 10:31:36
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By Michael Marshall Smith
Bantam, 1998

Cast your mind back to Ovi's fifteenth theme issue, yes the one published in June 2006, now do you recall a book review entitled "Cool as f***"? I know some of you do because it inspired a number to rush out and buy a copy of Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward, while others just borrowed my own stolen copy – thanks, Paul! Today you will be adding Spares, another MMS novel, to your Christmas list.

Only Forward was MMS's superb debut novel (read my review here) and it was with relief that his follow-up, published all those years ago in 1996, managed to match the benchmark of quality set and, dare I write it, exceed the first. It is with no shame that I freely admit to adoring MMS's entire back catalogue, but it is simply because all of his books fire up the imagination, like a dose of Rapt.

Rapt, The Gap (not the retail outlet), talking locks, flying MegaMalls, OwnCards, Club Bastard and Bright Eyes are all creations of MMS that you would dearly love to exist, although I have to admit that The Gap is one place we could all do without – MMS's descriptions of that place crept into my subconscious and changed a few dreams into nightmares.

Plot? Well, we are in the futuristic world of New Richmond and our guide is Jack Randall, an ex-cop, Gap war veteran and severe Rapt addict. Jack is hiding as a caretaker on a Farm, a place where clones of the mega-rich and powerful are kept as the ultimate insurance policy. However, Jack is soon on the run with a group of Spares and once he reaches New Richmond's grounded MegaMall the adventure really begins, with over 200 floors of history to face.

The MegaMall is an incredible locale for a novel and would have been awesome to see realised on the silver screen, yet despite Dreamworks purchasing the rights a film was never made – many people have commented upon the similarities between the plot of Spares and the 2005 film The Island. The rich live above 150, society's dregs live below 100 and everybody else fits in between, but life on the stranded MegaMall isn't as simple as the number floor you live upon.

Gangsters battle for territory, the police are corrupt and somebody is killing people and inflicting 'unspecified facial damage' to their victims. There's a new craze of jumping out of windows with nothing more than a fibreglass rod and somebody thinks they have discovered a mountain higher than Everest, either of which don't make any sense, especially to a confused Jack.

Michael Marshall Smith may have turned his attention to psychological thrillers under his alias Michael Smith, but there is still one other futuristic novel out there for you to find – it's called One of Us. Before you begin to re-read his trilogy of imaginatively crafted futuristic novels for the third time, please remember that you are not alone! Join this club today by picking up Spares, Only Forward or One of Us and then marvel at the difficulty in putting it down.

You may wonder just who is the 'Ratchet' in my title "Go Ratchet!" but you will have to read Spares to learn the identity of this great character!

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