Genre: Literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and a dusting of horror
Format: video-book and audiobook
Submitted by Rohan Quine on October 22, 2018
Rohan Quine’s “The Beasts of Electra Drive” a Finalist in IAN Book of the Year Awards
Rohan Quine’s novel The Beasts of Electra Drive has been listed as a Finalist in the IAN Book of the Year Awards 2018, in the LGBT category.
Of the novel’s seven Beasts (who are all 100% human in appearance), three sit clearly in the LGBT constellation. Two of those three are at least as much “T” as they are “G” – each with a genderfluidity whose beauty is very different from the other’s, and that’s delved into as deeply and explored with as much intensity and joy as all the Beasts’ qualities are.
It’s possible that two of the remaining four Beasts may also stray into the LGBT constellation, as an “L” and a “G” respectively, though one can’t quite be sure they reside in it. As for their creator, the fully-human narrator Jaymi, he’s so much a lens into his seven creations, and hides in such plain view, one may be even less certain of trusting one’s instincts about his residency there.
In any case, the author extends his gratitude to all of them for a good team effort in triggering the category.
From Hollywood Hills mansions and Century City towers, to South Central motels and the oceanside refinery, The Beasts of Electra Drive spans a mythic LA, following seven spectacular characters (or Beasts) from games designer Jaymi’s game-worlds. The intensity of those Beasts’ creation cycles leads to their release into real life in seemingly human forms, and to their combative protection of him from destructive rivals at mainstream company Bang Dead Games. Grand spaces of beauty interlock with narrow rooms of terror, both in the real world and in the incorporeal world of cyberspace. A prequel to Quine’s other five tales, The Beasts of Electra Drive is a unique explosion of glamour and beauty, horror and enchantment, exploring the mechanisms and magic of creativity itself.
“Technologically intelligent, socially clever, and supernaturally chilling – a trippy sci-fi tale. […]
There is a strong artistic element woven into this act of creation, allowing us to see how and why Jaymi creates each of his Beasts, giving them purpose and personality as well as form. […] This is a book that would have been entirely serviceable with just the hacking and virtual reality interfaces, but what makes it really compelling is the ability for Jaymi’s Beasts to step out into meat-space (I love that term) and take on corporeal form. These characters grow, learn, and even challenge their programming – they are somewhat childish in their willful independence, to the point of being sociopaths, although they demonstrate real emotion. There is some wonderful genderfluidity to some of the Beasts, with Shigem never feeling ‘quite like a boy, being half a gender to the left’ and Scorpio whose ‘nature flowers with so transgender a beauty,’ as well as a gay love affair between two Beasts who were created for one another. Lest you forget that this is a revenge fantasy, however, Amber is modeled after Rutger Hauer’s character in The Hitcher, while Scorpio’s defining moment is the fantasy of dominating an entire prison as the most dangerous boy in a skirt. […]
What really impressed me, however, is the flair for language, with some really beautiful – and beautifully chilling – passages that had me dog-earing pages along the way.”
– Sally Bend in Bending the Bookshelf
“Quine describes [the Beasts’] release like a beautiful dance instead of a strategic infiltration. […]
The novel is a creative mashing together of Hollywood novel, science fiction, eroticism, and dystopia, with a premise that seems at once foreboding and prescient. While the book takes obvious science fictional liberties with technology, there is a real-world parable about superficiality versus authenticity. As the world becomes more digitally mechanized – and we are as much a product of our digital personae as our real-life personae – the book has an important message to tell about what it is to be truly human. […]
Quine obviously has a lot of affection for his Beasts, which has the same effect on the reader. He also injects humor throughout into what is at times a fairly dark storyline, replete with violence and seamy sexuality.
In all, Quine has created a wholly unique look that will appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike. Most readers will empathize with the main character and his suboptimal working situation, and the steps he takes to get out from underneath a tyrannical and uninspiring boss. On a science fictional level, the novel works exceptionally well for its creative use of tech, mixed in with a group of highly imaginative characters.
A prequel to five other works, The Beasts of Electra Drive will have readers seeking out Rohan Quine’s other books in the series.”
“This novel is essentially near-future cyberpunk subtly blended with elements of LA noir and dystopic fiction to create a darkly stylish and, at times, visionary glimpse into humankind’s future. […] Richly described, the beasts are androgynous characters with full backstories, personalities, and idiosyncrasies. Unleashed upon the world, they allow Jaymi to achieve vengeance in ingenious ways.
This is an intriguing premise, but the story’s true power comes from its underlying theme: Humans can choose to live in the superficial, and underlying falseness, of tabloid reality (as gamers do when engaging in the novel’s online game), or embrace the ‘complexity, unconventionality, beauty and subtlety of truth’ of the world around them. Ultimately Jaymi’s journey of self-discovery mirrors our own: We all seek happiness in the short time that we inhabit the ‘meat space’ of this world.”
“The Beasts of Electra Drive, an unctuously dark piece of magical realism interwoven with biting satire on mass culture.”
– Dan Holloway, novelist, poet and Guardian blogger
“Quine’s narrative challenges the arbitrariness of commercial gate-keepers and the randomness of success – and has a lot of fun in the process. It’s an odd mixture of dark – verging on horror – with more than a bit of kitsch. […] It’s a very visual novel too. Quine gives his narrative voice (and sometimes his characters), the eye of a camera mounted on a drone, able to fly across a valley and zoom in on details miles in the distance – like a tiny reflection in the pupil of someone’s eye. […]
Reading this book is a little like watching a particularly unsettling art house movie. You will be, in turn, disoriented, enchanted and repelled.
For all the technology involved, this is more magic realism than science fiction. It deliberately pushes the boundaries of the outrageous and challenges you to go along for the ride.”
– Catriona Troth in Bookmuse
“Quine’s novel centers more on an interesting cast than fascinating sci-fi traits. Some characters are computer code in bodily form but still have depth. For example, Jaymi created Kim, in part, to be Shigem’s lover. (A nice touch: both Beasts are male.) There’s likewise a rather sublime religious theme. Though one Beast kneels in prayer in front of ‘his creator,’ Jaymi, there’s an understated notion of free will. Jaymi assigns missions to Beasts (e.g., wreak havoc on Bang Dead) but often leaves them ‘to [their] own devices.’ The author’s lyrical prose is profound and sometimes surreal, especially in character descriptions. ‘Inside Kim,’ Quine writes, ‘there is a lonely savage from the caves, bent on pure first-degree survival, blown by chance and the primal drives of instinct and emotion, alone and uncertain on a dart from birth to death.’ […]
Unhurried but engrossing novel in which characters are more enticing than otherworldly technology.”
“[Protagonist Jaymi] discovers that he can bring his incarnations of excessive freedom, sexuality, intellectual seriousness, cool ambiguity, and dark vulnerability to life, unleashing them on ‘meat space.’ They become his beasts, extensions of his own personality, and through them, he interacts with the executives behind Ain’t They Freaky! As various elements of Bang Dead’s software are released, Jaymi works to help his former coworkers recognize the shallow depravity of their game through unnerving visits to their homes. […]
This is a powerful book that advocates letting people be themselves, despite how far outside the bell curve of ‘normal’ they are. Pulsing with sexuality, the story will appeal to readers who enjoy artistic works rich in vocabulary, symbolism, and graphic imagery.”
“Part cyberpunk meditation and part erotic thriller, BEASTS is a stylish narrative romp around a fictional Los Angeles landscape that appeals to the heart first and the head second. […]
THE BEASTS OF ELECTRA DRIVE sounds like a cyberpunk thriller, and it sort of is. It also has an erotic undertone that grows throughout the narrative as the Beasts themselves crawl out of Jaymi’s computer screen and gain independence. It’s also a postmodern-ish meditation on creativity. Part of Jaymi goes into the creation of each of his Beasts – perhaps something author Rohan Quine can relate to – and as a whole the group is as a kind of kaleidoscope view of its creator. Additionally, part of Jaymi’s mission in siccing the Beasts on Bang Dead Games is a retaliation against Ain’tTheyFreaky!, an in-universe alternate reality game that embodies empty mass appeal over genuine artistry. […] the writing grows increasingly smoother, culminating in a hauntingly pretty passage about man’s inhumanity to man and ending up with intense backstories for the Beasts.
THE BEASTS OF ELECTRA DRIVE is, as its cover suggests, perhaps more about style than substance. Readers are told not to judge books by their covers – but this is the future. Maybe that’s the point.”
“Jaymi’s pursuits are a revenge fantasy taken to the next level, with moral and ethical quandaries wound in.
Magical realism meets old school noir in Rohan Quine’s technological thriller The Beasts of Electra Drive, which poses philosophical questions around reality, humanity, and where to draw the line with tech-infusion. […]
Distinct writing is filled with lyrical prose and vivid sensory descriptions […] At times, [Jaymi] appears to have moral quandaries about his drastic actions against a rival company. His cyber-creations also lead him to question the nature of existence and his role as a creator – can he ethically order his creations to do his bidding in the real world? […]
The characters that Jaymi creates are refreshing in their diversity of race, gender, and sexuality. The two distinctly male beasts conform to the spectrum of masculinity, with one, Amber, being excessively violent, athletic, and handsome, and the other, Kim, being introverted but boundlessly intelligent and philosophical. These two men are in relationships with Shigem and Scorpio, who are more fluid in their gender and sexual identities. Shigem and Scorpio, along with Evelyn, are of varying nonwhite ethnicities. The scope of variety among the beasts is a nice change of pace.
The Beasts of Electra Drive is a techno-thriller that focuses more on its beautiful prose than on nurturing its thrills. Although sometimes repetitive in format, the vitality of the characters is pleasant and engaging.”
“A fully-wrought origin story like no other.”