Gregory applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Afterparty, and reported the following:
Afterparty is either a crime novel with way too much neuroscience, or a near-future SF novel about an alarming number of criminals. The main character and principal outlaw is Lyda, an ex-neuroscientist and current addict, who is technically insane after she was overdosed with a designer drug she helped create years before. The drug, Numinous, left her with her own permanent hallucination of a deity—the angelic Dr. Gloria.Visit Daryl Gregory's website and blog.
Dr. G, however, sometimes abandons Lyda when Lyda’s behaving badly—which is frequently. Lyda has skipped out of the neuroatypical ward of a Toronto hospital and gone on the hunt for whoever’s making Numinous again. She’s convinced Ollie, her friend and lover, to escape with her.
But Ollie has her own psychiatric problems. She’s a former intelligence analyst who became addicted to a smart drug called Clarity, which radically increased her powers of pattern recognition, but also made her extremely paranoid. (False positives are a bitch.) But when Ollie’s off the drug, she suffers from crippling agnosia, and can barely separate foreground objects from background. Lyda wants Ollie back on Clarity, because she needs that savant-like analyst to track down Numinous.
But first Ollie needs her tools of the trade, which she’s stashed in a Thai restaurant, and sends Lyda inside.
Excerpt from page 69:I put up my hands. “Listen, I’m just here as a favor. She sent me to pick up her bag.”That’s when Lyda remembers that Ollie wasn’t checked into the hospital voluntarily—and that she may have done something horrible to the old man in her last paranoid rage.
“Oh, she wants her things.” The woman started shouting angrily in another language—I assumed Thai. A girl who could have been anywhere from sixteen to twenty-five came running out of the kitchen, and yelled, “Ma! Ma! Settle down!”
The mother kept shouting. The girl’s eyes darted from her mother’s face to mine, her expression shifting in quantum jumps from confused to concerned to pissed off. Now I had both women to deal with. I said, “If she owes you money—”
The daughter pointed at me. “Stay the fuck there.” No trace of an Asian accent—she sounded like an angry Edmonton Oilers fan. I upped her minimum age to eighteen. She shouted something at her mother in Thai and then marched across the dining room, heading toward the restrooms. The mother glared at me, lips pursed, nostrils flaring. Genuine, high-quality seething.
A minute passed, two. I looked back toward the glass door glazed with condensation, hoping that the blurry shape beyond was Bobby’s car, ready for my getaway. I felt naked without Dr. Gloria at my back.
The kitchen door bumped open, and a man in an electric wheelchair rolled out. The father, evidently, or maybe the grandfather. He slumped in the chair at an odd angle. His right arm was dead in his lap, but his left hand gripped the armrest controller. The chair coasted to a stop, and his eyes drifted up to mine.
Everything clicked then. The wheelchair, the angry mother, the angrier daughter. Maybe if Dr. G had been there I wouldn’t have been so slow to understand.
The scene did two things for the book. First, it solved a small plot problem. Lyda and Ollie need that duffel bag, which contains a set of lockpicks and a gun (always good to have in a crime novel). I could have just had them stop by a storage locker, but that seemed boring.
More importantly, the scene fills in a piece of Ollie’s past, and shows the cost of her addiction to Clarity. Lyda wants Ollie back on the drug, but the reader needs to know that putting a gun in the hand of a paranoid intel operative may not be the smartest move.
But what are these two damaged women to do? Neither one of them is fit to outwit drug dealers, outrun a sociopathic cowboy, and solve the mystery of who is making Numinous. Yet they must. And if it was easy for them I wouldn’t have had much of a story to tell.
My Book, The Movie: Afterparty.