Monday, June 11, 2012

Rivers Of Gold

Rivers of Gold was published in 2010, and was presumably written in 2008-2009, when the Great Recession was just beginning to take hold in the U.S. Set in the near future of 2013, the book presumes that the efforts taken by the Bush and Obama administrations to rescue the economy have failed. The Great Recession has become the Second Great Depression, and New York City has been hit especially hard. Banks and businesses are shuttered; unemployment is rampant; the few people who still have money have walled themselves off from the rest of the society that is slowly sinking into poverty and despair.

An underground economy has taken root and a twenty-five year-old fashion photographer named Renny is attempting to make the best of a bad situation. In addition to shooting his pictures, Renny is a mid-level drug dealer working for a vicious crime boss named Reza who in turn reports to an even more shadowy figure known only as the Slav, who is attempting to corner much of the city's criminal activity. Renny's distribution network is a fleet of taxicabs that he uses to float from one illegal underground club to another, distributing his wares. Along the way, he has a great deal of hot sex with the beautiful women who model for him and who frequent the clubs where he distributes his product.

Sixto Santiago is an ambitious detective who's anxious to help shut down the drug trade and advance through the ranks of the NYPD. As the book opens, he's teamed up with a strange new partner who hardly ever talks, who possesses amazing physical and mental skills, who has a very mysterious background and who refuses to take any of the credit for the arrests that he and Santiago make. It's clear that the new partner, More, has an agenda of his own, and Santiago is increasingly non-pulsed when he cannot figure it out. Inevitably Santiago and Renny's paths will cross and when they do all hell will break loose.

The story itself falters at points and Dunn is a bit too cute at times, especially when naming some of his characters. But Renny and Santiago are both very interesting and well-conceived, and Dunn is at his best in describing the bleak, dystopian world of the near-future. It's not a pretty picture. But it's so well drawn that the reader cannot look away and can only hope in the end that our current economic difficulties do not yet deteriorate into something resembling the grim and desperate picture that Dunn has drawn here.

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