The story takes place on
another planet at a time far enough in the future to have interstellar and
inter-dimensional colonies. In the privileged side of town is a private school
of affluent kids. There are two major fads among the rich kids. They have
phones that are marketed as allowing one to listen to the spirits of dead
people. And the girls have bio-engineered "dolls". These are
artificial life forms made to be taken care of by a child. Yuki had a custom
made "doll" that has disappeared. Her wealthy father has hired
private detective Stake to look into it.
Meanwhile, Crimson, another
girl from the school has disappeared. She had a boyfriend from the bad side of
town. He's a gang member who comes to the affluent area to look for her. He is
killed by mysterious humanoids at a deserted apartment complex. When he doesn’t
return, other members of his gang come to find him. They find squatters in the
apartment building who are trapped there – as the humanoids will attack them if
they go outside. Both the gang and the squatters are now trying to figure out
how to escape from the building– until they find themselves fighting for their
lives inside the building.
Crimson was the daughter of a
business rival of Yuki’s father. They're both in the genetically modified life
form business. Yuki’s father’s company previously took over a firm that had
been run by a defunct religious cult that was genetically engineering some sort
of "monster" to help them bring back their god.
The story alternates between
the action at the apartment building and the investigation of the mystery of
the missing “doll”. It doesn’t entirely have the feel of a detective story.
Nor would it be a strong detective story if that plot thread was presented
essentially by itself. However, the combination works well and it has a good
pace. It’s not “hard SF” or “idea SF”, but it’s entertaining. And the story
is set in a unique future world.
Deadstock’s world includes
aliens, but we mostly encounter humans – some of whom are mutants. The
squatters are a gang of mutants of various physical differences. Stake is a
mutant in that his face will assume the appearance of someone else – which he
has limited control over. However, if he stares at a picture of someone he’d like
to impersonate, he’s learned his face will take on that person’s appearance.
Stake also has an affair with a woman who finds ways to enjoy a partner whose