Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at a time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Usually when I do a Chapter By Chapter installment I wait until after I write the intro to do the review. It adds a bit of authenticity to my wonderings as to what’s to come, whether it’s a book I read once and don’t remember all the details or a book I’ve never read before. I have read TekWar once after getting it and remember enjoying it. And that was before all the spin-off media I mentioned in the reveal. Looking over the chapters however, chapter 2 was so short, about three pages to chapter 1’s six, that I added it to the chapter 1 review and it looks like a good idea. Chapter 2 might has well have been part of chapter 1 and now I’m curious how often that’s going to happen.
For the record, my copy of the book is not the original 1989 Phantasia Press hardback but the first paperback, published by Ace Books the following year. The credits claim it uses all the text of the hardback but reset for easier reading and from new film. (Printing was different back then.) So if you’re reading a long (which would be a nice change for this series) I’m curious what changes exist in your copy as well as what you think thus far. Again, no spoilers for new readers or those using this series to decide if they want to read the book themselves. The only thing “spoiled” is the latest chapter we’re up to, which at this point is only the first two.
So it’s time to meet Jake Cardigan…next time. Instead we’re meeting a robot named Winger…which is odd because that was also the name of a character in my failed webcomic. I don’t think that was an inspiration though. There are too many years between when I read this book and when I started my comic. I don’t have enough to pad out the intro as much as I’d like for the homepage since I said everything about this franchise in the reveal post I already linked to, so let’s dive into Billy S’s fusion of James T, Kirk and T.J. Hooker and unfreeze us a sweater.
No, I don’t plan to make fun of Jake’s last name all through this book.
The first two chapters, in my copy separated from chapter 3 with a blank page, is more set-up than anything substantial. We follow Winger (M6)/SCPS-31 PB, but I’m just going to call him Winger so I don’t have to keep looking that up. At this point I’m not sure how much of him we’ll be seeing. He’s just the robotic parole officer. I barely remembered this character, even after the limited description we get of a chrome face and skull and wearing a white suit…which ends up meeting with a kids chocolate fingers and the masquera of a crying woman he brushes up against at the orbiting penal colony where you’re sent to be put into cryosleep for your crimes. Apparently even prostitution is a four year freezing sentence. I’m not supporting prostitution mind you but that seems a bit harsh.
As I said, a lot of this is setup and jokes at Winger’s expense, though not as mean spirited as you’d expect from a character I think they want us to not like. He’s not quite the butt monkey but I could see it going that way. For fun I looked up the scene in the TV movie adaptation and none of this is here. It has a different way of showing the audience that Jake was put into cryosleep for dealing Tek, which the chapter tells us is an “illegal electronic brain stimulant” and not much else. That’s more than the movie told in that same scene. It just thinks we know what Tek is but there is no way to deliver the belief he’s innocent shown by the warden, a friend of Jake’s (I’m surprised they put him in a cryo-prison his former police partner is interred in) who was hoping he was finally cleared of the false charge. I won’t be comparing the book to the movie this whole time; I just wanted to see if Winger matched his description (he doesn’t–they even put him in a black suit) but I’m sure all those see-through walkways and hovering vehicles was beyond syndicated TV budgets back then.
A lot of the first chapter is just describing future stuff as Winger makes his way to the prison, uses his built-in printer (one in his hand for his pass and one in his chest for the 50,000 early release forms for Jake), and requests Jake’s parole. The desk talks so they don’t have to hire a secretary, Jake’s friend Dr. Goodhill is apparently not a cyborg but old an in a wheelchair, and in addition to the prostitute and the Tek smuggler to briefly introduce Tek we have a rapist. All the prisoners are described but I’m betting a remake movie wouldn’t care. Again, none of this was in the movie but the book is the source material. The movie had two hours not including ads so I’m not surprised they dropped all this. I won’t be looking at the movie beyond this. Oddly Jake’s prisoner number is 19,587 rather than a typical number. There shouldn’t be a comma even under a new cataloging method. He would just be Prisoner #19587 in most crime stories.
So a whole lot of setup and not much else. We haven’t even met our hero, but at least we know why he’s here and that there’s the possibility that he was framed, he was a good cop so this doesn’t make sense, and that he’s going to be release early. Why is all that happening? We’ll hopefully find out next time.