Riding the crest of what seems to be an interesting and diverse movement in fiction at the moment to present a multitude of “Near Future” tales, Afterparty is an interesting take on religion, drugs, technology and society that manages to raise questions without being preachy or crude about it.
Afterparty features the world as we know it, a few decades in the future. Specifically, it is set in Toronto, making a nice break with the typical American setting, and it features Lyda as its protagonist, an incredibly intelligent scientist who has been confined to the Neuro-Atypical Ward of a mental hospital. She seemed content to remain there, until a young girl arrives, suffering from delusions brought on by what Lyda recognizes as the side-effects of a powerful drug that she herself had a hand in creating. Hoping to stop the spread of the drug, Numinous, to the streets and beyond, Lyda engages in a thrilling chase across Toronto to track down who is responsible, interacting with an array of odd characters along the way.
Afterparty has taken much of what was typically technological in cyberpunk works, and has replaced it with drugs, chemicals, and the effects they have on the mind, which is almost as magical for us as readers, but which carries significantly different themes within it for the story. Almost all the characters have some sort of mental quirk or issue, and to witness them dealing with it does as much for mental health awareness as any cause might do, and it should be commended for that. The novel also focuses on the issues of religion, as the main drug, Numinous, creates the figure of a divine spirit in the mind of the user, similar to schizophrenia. The way this topic is approached is careful and considered, and does not seek to insult or mock any of the different sides of this point; rather, it hopes to explore more about the human condition as a result.
Afterparty serves as a suitable thriller as well, as much of the narrative is cloaked behind mystery, suspense, and waiting to find out who is responsible for what. This is paced well, and the various stops Lyda makes are natural and engaging with the people she meets there. Afterparty certainly entertained me in this way the first time I read it, and I was committed to making each page turn quicker and quicker in excitement, but knowing what I do now that I have read it, I don’t feel it’s the kind of book I would re-read over and over. It was fun for the first time, and worth a look at, but does not do much beyond that. It is competently written and has some good ideas, with its strength mostly coming from its characterization and diverse pool of characters.