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The Skull Cage Key: A Novel [Paperback]

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Item description for The Skull Cage Key: A Novel by Michel Marriott...

In a near-future Harlem, businessman Armstrong is wrongfully accused of murdering his boss and lover on Chinese New Year, a situation that forces him to team up with a disgraced ex-cop to investigate the claims of a sultry sex worker and the growing popularity of a designer drug. Original.

Publishers Description
From long-time New York Times technology reporter Michel Marriott - an incisive new science-fiction thriller, set in mid-twenty-first-century Harlem, in the spirit of books as diverse as Neuromancer, The Possibility of an Island, and Children of Men.
Armstrong Black is a successful young Harlemite celebrating Chinese New Year 2041 with his boss (and lover) when they're assaulted in their luxury hotel suite. After he's found unconscious by the authorities, he learns that he's a suspect in his companion's brutal killing - her headless body having been left in the suite's Jacuzzi.
So begins a tale that unfolds on two main paths. One follows Armstrong as he goes on the run, avoiding the police - and the many others with an interest in the case - while trying to unravel exactly what happened that night. Help and companionship come in the form of Oona, a beautiful sex worker with an unexpectedly deep reservoir of information - and connections.
The other follows Reagan, a disgraced ex-cop estranged from his wealthy sister and slowly dying mother, who is unexpectedly invited back onto the force to help with a case on his old beat - Harlem. There, a powerful new drug has become all the rage with the young, rich, and bored. While Reagan struggles to redeem himself by finding out what's behind the spread of the new drug, his path and Armstrong's gradually draw closer together.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   350
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2008
Publisher   Agate Bolden
ISBN  193284130X  
ISBN13  9781932841305  

Availability  0 units.

More About Michel Marriott

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! MICHEL MARRIOTT writes for the New York Times, covering stories on youth culture, race, music, film, and high-technology. His series on young car thieves in Newark, New Jersey, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was the basis for the film New Jersey Drive. In 2001, he was named a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and MIT to study the relationship between high-technology and culture. Mr. Marriott is married and has three children. He lives in Manhattan.

Michel Marriott currently resides in Manhattan, in the state of New York.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > General
2Books > Subjects > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > General
3Books > Subjects > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > High Tech

Reviews - What do customers think about The Skull Cage Key: A Novel?

"LORD OF THE DIGI-DOT"  Aug 19, 2008
Wow, how do I start this? Mr.Marriott's creativity explodes like a paint-ball gun on paper!!! Who else could come up with cleaver futuristic inventions such as a paper digi-dot that allows you to listen to music via body electricity and then dispose of it? Or how about the "Screamer's" movement and the new twist on watching movies in the year 2041? The drug "Hedz" which allows you to experience someone else's memories? Unbelieveable. Or is it? This brillant story is so well thought out and written. And who better to write this novel than a New York Times technology journalist? Bravo. The characters are well developed within a gumbo of drama, twists, turns, danger and everything else I can't mention as to not spoil the ride. Read this book as your own personal pychic reading into what the future holds for 2041.
A "Not to Distant" Reality?  Jul 26, 2008
Michel Marriott's debut in the written word of techo-mystery is a stunning, well crafted look at the hedonistic future of our society and, specifically, the world of Harlem in 2041.
In his novel he describes the unending, drug seeking cravings of an Alpha/Omega generation, those that would profit from that need and the oversight of a government armed with technology but little or any insight into the basic needs of its citizens.
Trotting out an overweight, forced to retire early cop, he describes in sometimes morbid detail, the "harvesting" of human brains used to produce a fast acting drug, Hedz, that transports the user to greater "highs" than those provided by previously produced non-organic,substances. In a world of "pleasurists," "Lights and Darks" and just ordinary folks, a classic struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, coupled with just enough technology, emerges.
Mr. Marriott provides an insightful view into a rather bleak future but, thankfully, one not void of the basic goodness of humankind as evidenced by several sub plots and characters whose journey's end as they gratefully do.
When not reading, I found myself speculating about the next "turn in the road" and my inclination to assign real actors to the characters I saw revealed on the printed page. My only disappointment was, a personal prejudice, that STARBUCK's still exists in 2041!
I highly recommend this novel.
The Pursuit of Joy...  Mar 25, 2008
I was thoroughly pleased when offered a copy of The Skull Cage Key as a review book because I had recently read a glowing endorsement in Essence magazine for the debut novel by Michael Marriott. I am a fan of the Sci-Fi/Paranormal genre and have enjoyed Patrik's Picks tremendously in the past, so I anxiously settled in with this latest recommendation. Unfortunately, after reading the last page, I am not as enthusiastic about the book as Patrik.

The novel opens strongly enough with a young, virile man, Army, engaged in an unfulfilling affair with his demanding employer during the celebration of the Chinese New Year in a posh hotel suite in 2041 New York City. Within a few pages, Army is rendered unconscious and awakens to find his lover's decapitated body in the tub and himself in police custody as a person of interest. Fast forward a few days later when his boss's decomposing head literally lands on his parents' home, he recognizes a setup when he sees one. Fleeing as a prime suspect, he goes on the lam determined to clear his name and find the real murderer(s). In a parallel plotline, there is Reagan, an ousted, racist cop with a shady past who is obsessed with the dark, exotic, and extremely beautiful pleasurist (akin to a futuristic prostitute), Oona, who just happened to bedazzle Army from afar minutes before his boss's beheading.

The selling of joy/happiness is the craze behind the new, highly addictive drug, Hedz. However, harvesting joy comes with a fatal blow as the drug is derived from freshly obtained brain matter. The rich and happy are targeted for their endorphin-rich memories of lavish vacations and lush lifestyles. When wealthy and often high-profile targets command the attention of the police to address their murders, Reagan is hired as a private consultant to work the most recent case involving Army's boss.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where I started losing interest, but I think it could very well be I never truly connected with Army, Oona or their plight - there just was not enough there for me to care about them as individuals or as a potential couple. Although Reagan was intentionally an unlikeable character, I found his storyline a tad more interesting than Army and Oona's. It was truly the intrigue surrounding the new drug, Hedz, and Reagan's shady underworld involvement with the sleazy Harlemite drug dealers that kept me reading as it proved to be more interesting than Army (including his family), Oona, and Reagan combined. At times, the story read somewhat like a screenplay with numerous chase scenes, weapons-fire and multiple explosions. Factor in a sexy, handsome protagonist and irresistible, highly desirable pleasurist hovering about, there was little doubt that the requisite sex scenes were dutifully (and tastefully) infused throughout the novel.

For me, the most notable aspect (and possibly an unintentional by-product) of the novel is the author's keen rendering of an underlying political landscape, cultural amalgamation, and the complex social constructs in the not too distant future. He effortlessly folds in the concepts of Terrorist Wars, the migration of racial classifications/identities to simply Lights and Darks, the everlasting War on Drugs (same modus operandi, different drug), the use of lotteries in education, and the Maternal Order concept where surrogate motherhood is taken to another level. Such notions and speculation surrounding the evolution and morphing of unresolved contemporary social problems are, at a minimum, thought-provoking. The infusion of authentic historical references from Renaissance Harlem to current events adds a sense of nostalgia and relevance.

The Skull Cage Key is well-written, well-imagined, and fairly well-paced (there were some slow passages for me). It is a novel that I recommend with caveats - from a positive angle, it has smatterings of SciFi elements in terms of cool innovative gadgetry, artificial intelligence, very light erotica in terms of few sex scenes and the introduction of "jellies" in the sex trade of the future, and intrigue in the murder, mayhem, and pursuit to find the real Hedz culprits. From a negative angle, because of the broad coverage across three or so genres, a "true" fan of any singular genre might not be satisfied with the offering as a whole. Thus the middle of the road rating and encouragement to just give it a try and decide for yourself.

Reviewed by Phyllis Rhodes
APOOO BookClub
March 23, 2008

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