Out On Blue Six reviewed by Paul J. McAuley

Review of Out on Blue Six by Paul J. McAuley. Originally published in Interzone #43 (January 1991), page 68. © Interzone 1990. Reprinted with permission.

Nature is no more in the disneyland dystopia of Ian McDonald's Out on Blue Six (Bantam, £4.99). All of humanity lives in a single vast city in which history has stopped, and where all Pain Crimes are relentlessly erased by the Ministry of Love to keep order. The story is a double helix: a cartoonist makes a single rebellious statement and must flee the bumbling Love police, stumbles into a hidden kingdom, makes a journey to the edge of the world, and returns bearing wisdom; and amnesiac Kilimanjaro West falls in with a troups of unlicenced artists and slowly discovers his true nature. Both strands wind together, until the gears of the world are stripped bare and history starts again.

There are, of course, innumerable variations on this hoary sci-fi theme, but probably none so baroquely decorated as this. As in Desolation Road, McDonald's first novel, there's a colourful tatterdemalion cast, from the King of Nebraska and his court of hardwired raccoons, through Xian Man Ray the Amazing Teleporting Woman, to Kilimanjaro West, innocent messiah. There are densely impacted concatenations of ideas, and gaudy, loony, original visions. And the hyperactive prose won't sit still for an instant, throwing off brilliant verbal fireworks just for the hell of it, sometimes overheating as puns and pop references overload the narrative, and descriptions stripmine the thesaurus to bedrock, but never dull and always cheerful. A fantastical sugary confection, layered deep around an irreducible nugget of stale dystopian tropes, it won't be to everyone's taste, but if nothing else the reader must admire McDonald's chutzpa.

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