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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

SCI FICTION, October 13, 2004

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"Soho Golem" by Kim Newman

The SCI FICTION novella, "Soho Golem" by Kim Newman, is a murder mystery set in 70's London in the seedy Soho district, famous for its red-light women, drugs, and corruption. A kingpin of the vice-ridden neighborhood has been murdered most gruesomely and most enigmatically. Called in to investigate are Richard Jeperson and Fred Regent, members of the Diogenes Club, an institution that deals with criminal matters beyond the purview of Scotland Yard.  Their bailiwick is weird shit: "time-warping Nazi demons, extra dimensional hippie harvesting, spirits of ancient Egypt, and dreadlocked Rasta zombies."

The prose in "Soho Golem" is notably British--a minor distraction for readers who are accustomed to seeing "color," "honor," and "favor" spelled (or is that "spelt"?) without the "u."  But such minutiae isn't an issue for readers used to works from across the pond.  Unfortunately, the HTML-assisted translation glossary is harder to overlook.  The lingo, served fast and furious, immerses the reader in mood and setting, but the superfluous glossary items draw the eye and attention, highlighted and underscored as they are in  blue throughout.  Apparently, Newman believes his readership is so Americentric they don't understand a "tart" is a hooker, the "fuzz" are the cops, a "pouffe" is a gay man, and a "cuppa" is short for a cup of tea.  While some of the earmarked Brit slang was new to this reader, the majority of it was either standard lexicon items, or was decipherable from the context.  The frequent interruptions do more to deflect attention from the story than they aid in comprehension.  While the jargon could occasionally feel contrived, it wasn't Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange by a long shot.  "Soho Golem" is a rare instance of Sci-Fiction's online format interfering with my enjoyment of the story.  In the end, in order to submerge myself in the tale, I had to cut-and-paste it into a text document, thereby removing all the markups.

With that task accomplished, I found "Soho Golem" to be a spirited adventure, full of girlie magazine imagery and well-bosomed heroines of tarnished virtue, evil-doers getting their comeuppance, and a suitably heroic end. The combination of London's Soho with X-Files-esque incidents makes for an intriguing setting, rife with suspense, atmosphere, and a bit of bawdy humor.  Generally fun, if insubstantial, fare.