Tuesday, March 28, 2017

100% by Paul Pope

Predicting the future is never easy. And a thousand unlikely things have already happened, so a million more will happen, given enough time.

Still, I'm pretty sure that the next trend in erotic entertainment will not be "gastro" -- watching a half-naked dancer's stomach contents fizzing and bubbling on a big screen behind her as she gyrates.

Call it a hunch.

Otherwise, Paul Pope's graphic novel 100% (created 2002-2002, collected 2009, set in 2038) presents a plausible, lived-in urban future, a few decades up the line -- in fact, except for gastro, it's notable mostly because things haven't changed that much. There's no strong AI, no flying cars, no implants, no apparent gene-surgery or designer people, no sign of robots or advanced digital assistants, let alone regular space travel or any of the more exotic SFnal ideas. Instead, it's a city full of people drinking in bars, falling in and out of love, trying to get ahead, worried about themselves and the ones the care about, and chasing that next big thing.

Pope intertwines several stories more or less about love -- a new gastro dancer hooks up with the busboy, the serious young bartender meets an artist on the verge of a potentially life-changing grant, the bar's manager has to deal with her professional-fighter ex coming back to town. They mostly work together, they mostly know each other, so they bounce off each other and their stories affect each other over the course of about a week.

There's no big plot: no one is conquering the world, or creating a new transformative product, or learning the secret of reality. Chekhov would be disappointed with one particular plot element, but it didn't bother me at all. 100% is not going to tell the story you think it will: it will not tell you a story you've heard before. Instead, it will show you a window into the lives of a group of ordinary people, in a 2038 that's as reasonable or possible as any other world.

And it's all told by Paul Pope, in his grungy lines and deep blacks -- his people are attractive but not pretty, like always, the battered-god avatars of themselves, and their world is full of detail and specificity. His work is great for SF, since the THB days -- I hope he does more of it, and makes more crazy ideas.

Even if, like gastro, I can't quite bring myself to believe in them.

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