Farewell Horizontal

K. W. Jeter presents FAREWELL HORIZONTAL as the first volume of THE CYLINDER, a projected trilogy about life in and on a cylindrical skyscraper that stretches far above the clouds. Though not impressive in character, motivation, or dialogue, the novel is imaginative and exciting.

The book’s main attraction is the world Jeter has created. Inside the upper levels of the building, people labor in perpetual artificial light at ordinary and dull bureaucratic and manufacturing jobs. Outdoors, on the sunny side of the building and mainly above cloud level, adventurers scramble for territory, power, and wealth, like biker cattle barons and outlaws on a vertical western plain. How this social system holds together remains mysterious; for example, the economy of the vertical societies seems impossible and remains unexplained. On the lower levels, on the darker side, in the center, and flying in the air around the building are various mysterious groups that Ny Axxter, the protagonist, encounters in his adventures.

Axxter is a free-lance graffex artist. He designs armor, icons, and electronic decorations for the army-gangs that attempt to organize and control parts of the building. After stumbling upon dangerous information, he is marked for death by the two most powerful armies. Here logic seems to fail, as one of the armies hires him in what turns out to be an elaborate trap when they might just as well have followed their usual practice and destroyed him instantly.

Despite this unresolved problem and several dangling questions held over for future volumes, this book is fun to read. Axxter’s adventures are reasonably interesting, but the reader is likely to stay with this volume mainly to try to see how this unusual world fits together.