Monday, April 7, 2014

NYPD 2025

NYPD 2025, by Hal Stryker
May, 1985  Pinnacle Books

Betrayed by a misleading cover, NYPD 2025 is in fact a men’s adventure novel, one very much in the over-the-top vein of The Hitman and Soldier For Hire. And it’s just as right-winged, “Hal Stryker” serving up a future world in which the goddamn Liberals have taken hold of America…hell, they’ve even opened the country’s borders to immigrants!

One coud read NYPD 2025 as either a work of warped genius or a bunch of fascist drivel, and either reading would have sufficient evidence to back it up. At any rate what can be said is the book was intended as the first installment of a series, a series which no doubt was canceled due to the collapse of Pinnacle Books. Perhaps the world is a sadder place without a second volume of NYPD 2025, but at least we have this one, which despite being credited to a house name is copyright George Henry Smith, a prolific pulp writer whom I’ve never before read.

But if this novel is any indication, Smith was not only one heck of a right-winger, he also had a goofy sense of humor. NYPD 2025, despite serving up gallons of gore, has a positively humorous bent, and what with its colorfully-named and masked protagonists it comes off like an R-rated ‘80s cartoon. In other words, pretty much just like Doomsday Warrior, only without the postapocalyptic setting. It’s got the same over-the-top vibe that comes off like genre parody, but, like with The Hitman or Soldier For Hire, you suspect the author doesn’t intend it to be a parody.

Anyway, it’s 2025 and we meet our hero, Captain Zack (we later learn his name is Zack Ward, but Smith constantly refers to him as “Captain Zack,” which should give you an idea of the book’s tone) as he’s put on trial in Long Island, New York. Zack is a battle-hardened Ranger who has spent the past several years fighting in Central America. He’s been away from America for so long that the country is basically new to him (a convenient means for Smith to shoehorn in lots of expository dialog and description, all for Zack’s benefit of course), but we glean from all of this that newly-elected President Buchanan has banned warfare and thus Zack’s special forces team has been fighting down south on their own (“defending Mexico,” we’re informed). Zack is now considered a “war criminal,” and is to be executed asap.

The future world Smith creates is very hard to buy, and in fact the author himself doesn’t seem sure how far he should go. Sometimes NYPD 2025 comes off like a cartoonish satire, other times it appears to be in dead earnest. But either way it very much comes off like another pulpish future, that of Howard Rheingold’s earlier Savage Report. Only whereas Rheingold’s “future” 1994 was more of a positive nature, Smith’s is downright dystopian…I mean, the goddamn Liberals have taken over, and in a major way – there are no laws (except for those enforced upon the police, of course), the country’s borders have been opened to all and sundry, and “President-For-Life” Buchanan prefers to use the title “Mahatma.”

After more exposition Zack finally discovers he’s being held by goons of the PSP, the Producers’s Security Police, who work for SPA, the Solidio’s Producers’s Association. It takes a while until we learn that “solidios” are sort of holographic/interactive snuff films in which viewers can sexually interract with the stars via brain implants, or something like that. But anyway since there are no laws and all “art” is endorsed by the government, these multimillion-dollar solidio snuff flicks are not only legal but incredibly popular to boot. One of the major problems of NYPD 2025 by the way is that Zack is obviously disgusted by all of this, and he and his fellow cops will represent decency and morals and etc in their fight against such backwards thinking – but the thing of it is, it appears that the entire country is crazy about solidios and the ultra-liberal world “Mahatma Buchanan” has created!

Zack is saved by the sudden arrival of a masked group of people, lead by Judge Portia van Wyck, a black-garbed young woman who wears a “greek goddess” mask. Along with her comes Officer Murphy, a hulking Irish cop in a Keystone Kops mask, MacTavish, an equally-muscular Scotsman (can’t remember his mask), The Professor, a slim black man in a white mask who uses a Thompson submachine gun and quotes Shakespeare while in combat, and Ferret, a short guy who wears a ferret mask. These people claim to be the New York Police Department, and Portia is the acting judge of “the city-state of New York.” She’s here to take Zack…not to free him, but to put him on a trial of her own, as he is considered a war criminal in Buchanan’s America, and given that the SPA have brought Zack here to Long Island, he has fallen into her jurisdiction.

Here ensues a gory battle in which the NYPD and the PSP go at it, with Zack stuck in the middle. Heads get blown off, organs get ripped out, and lots of people puke up blood – in fact, there’s a fair bit of vomiting going on in NYPD 2025, Zack even tossing his cookies when later Portia shows him a solidio snuff film. Portia and Zach have an instant banter going on, and even though Portia claims she’s here to arrest Zack, he still finds himself siding with her as the lesser of two evils. Portia also proves herself merciless, as during the getaway she metes out her “sentencing” for two SPA goons by dropping them a few hundred feet out of their aircar. This action scene does sort of drag on, though, in particular a two-chapter sequence in which Zack merely attempts to cross over a ledge! But this is just the first indication of Smith’s skill at page-filling.

Portia, who turns out to be a gorgeous blonde (of course), later puts Zack on trial in her penthouse study/office. Strapped into a chair and served drinks by a robot on wheels, Zack defends his actions in Mexico and elsewhere. He’s a stone-cold patriot and was raised that way, and since he hasn’t been in the US for 25 years (leaving when he was still a child), all of this Liberal stuff is bizarre to him. Turns out this was all just a mock trial; Portia wanted to see if Zack would defend his beliefs, even if he knew he would suffer for them. Zack having proven himself, Portia offers him the job of Officer in Charce of NYPD Ten, Combat Operations Program – COP. This is of course the masked group of characters Zack fought against the PSP with, but in addition there’s also Fu, a Chinese guy who wears a Fu Manchu mask, and Andy Jumbles, a two-headed, four-armed android.

As for those masks, they go hand in hand with Smith’s unbelievable future world. Portia explains that they are “smudge masks,” made of a rubberlike substance that fits like a second skin. Beyond show they’re to filter out the “smudge” that pollutes the environment, thanks to the terrorist actions of the Luddites, a more militant version of the old technology-hating faction. The Luddites have destroyed all electricity and nuclear generators (their actions of course legal in Buchanan’s America), and now the country gets its power from coal. Thus, a permanent cloud of coal smudge obscures the city, and one needs a smudge mask to breathe. But anyway, Portia already has Zack’s mask – it’s a grinning skull, and she informs him that his team codename will be Captain Death.

Zack’s first case is the recent kidnapping of Indira Buchanan, daughter of the “Mahatma.” Sources believe that she will be used in a big-budget solidio snuff film, to be killed by the Slasher, most famous of the solidio killers. President Buchanan has fled to his ashram to meditate, which we’re informed is his standard response to any problem, so it’s up to the NYPD to handle the case, despite all of the restrictions placed against them. Zack’s plan is to infiltrate the solidio studios of Dynamic, producers of the Slasher films, as an extra, and to get in the graces of solidio superstar Foxxy van Pelt (“van” apparently a popular naming convention in 2025, or just a sign of Smith’s lack of imagination when creating female names). His goal is to use her as bait in drawing out the Slasher.

So begins the second half of the novel, which follows more of a procedural nature as Zack investigates his top three suspects on who the Slasher might be. They’re a strange bunch, from Reverend Everett Edwards (a mega-famous televangelist-type known for denouncing solidios), to Sandy Mondo (a tattooed, purple-haired newsreporter who, per the current trend, actually sings her reports to a rock backbeat), and finally Sheldon Gilbert, chairman of the Culture Defense Committee (an older guy who claims the solidios are perfectly legal and instantly deduces that Zack is a cop).

Smith serves up occasional action scenes, as Zack and Foxxy are attacked by hired goons, but man they’re just padding, like an endless sequence where the duo is chased by goons in another aircar. Foxxy, who at first is sickened by Zack’s “bloodthirsty” nature, of course soon becomes attracted to him, to the point where she’s sidling up on his lap and asking if he’d like to feel how “juicy” he’s made her. Smith skirts over the sex, just letting us know it happened – though he’s all over the more luridly violent stuff, like a detailed description of a solidio Portia shows Zack, in which the Slasher lops off some poor actress’s breasts and other delicate parts before beheading her.

Unfortunately the novel sort of grinds to a close; after Zack is nearly killed by more goons (and is once again saved by the appearance of Portia and the other members of NYPD Ten), he uses Foxxy as bait during the filming of the next big solidio picture and waits for the Slasher to show. Oh and I forgot to mention, the Slasher is a hulking individual who wears a purple turban and a yellow veil, which should give you yet another indication of the type of novel this really is. But the outing of the Slasher’s real identity seems to come out of Scooby-Doo (spoiler alert: it’s Gilbert, the old guy, which isn’t believable in the least), and Smith wraps up the Indira subplot very unceremoniously (turns out she ran away to pose as another Slasher, so as to kill Foxxy, so Indira herself could become a big solidio star…or something).

Smith definitely had this novel in mind as the first installment of a series. Many of the characters are set up with the potential of becoming regulars, in particular Sandy Mondo, who both provokes and propositions Zack when they meet. This is a good scene, very bizarre, as a fully-nude but tattoo-covered Sandy cavorts around Zack, bluntly asking, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to fuck?” Instead she serves to piss Zack off, who finds that this woman gets his goat more than anyone else ever has; it appears that Sandy Mondo is Smith’s take on the whole “shock jock” fad of the mid-‘80s, taken, like everything else in the novel, to an absurd degree. It also seems clear that she would’ve become a constant thorn in NYPD Ten’s side, had the series continued.

But NYPD 2025 ends with the series ready to take off – the President will no doubt cut funding given that Zack has punched Indira while arresting her, so Foxxy van Pelt announces that she’s quitting solidios and wants to join the force, funding them with her billions of dollars. However it wasn’t to be, and this novel was the one and only entry in the NYPD 2025 series. Smith by the way passed away in 1996, and I wonder if he even started on a second volume, or if Pinnacle went out of business before he could.


Grant said...

Making the president call himself "Mahatma" and "retreat to his ashram" sounds like the familiar idea of connecting political liberals with Eastern religion, and connecting Eastern religion with fanatics or phonies (or both), and so on. While reading this it occurred to me that making those connections had kind of stopped being trendy by 1985, then I thought of the whole Bhagwan Rajneesh business in 1985 (though I don't know whether this book was written before that or after).

Griffin Calhoun said...

yup, that sounds like America in another 11 years all right, thanks Obama!

Grant said...

I know I seem to have a one-track mind about this, but any given "Men's Adventure" book makes me think of those early "Destroyer" ones, and wish that there were more like them. And the description of this one, with so many "femme fatale" characters (in some sense of that phrase or other), makes me wish the main character had "plowed" just about every one of them, a la Remo (although according to you, so many of the ' 80s Men's Adventure books are notoriously pretty "sexless"). Speaking of Destroyer, that last paragraph about the hero decking the president's criminal daughter makes me think of Destroyer # 4, where Remo has a torrid affair with a mayor's hot (and criminal) daughter, and ends with him doing the same thing to her, only fatally!

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks guys for the comments. Grant, I really appreciate your enthusiasm for the Destroyer sounds like #4 is a winner. And Griffin, I guess we'll see!!

halojones-fan said...

I wish the guy were still around so that we could show him "Autotune The News" and blow his mind.

It's interesting how many of these stories assumed that the next big US military deployment was going to be in Central and South America. It kind of goes along with the whole "drug pushers are the most evil people ever" that was heavily seen in right-wing fiction of the 70s and 80s (Death wish, Miami vice, lethal weapon, and so on)

Tim Gueguen said...

It was also the era of civil wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala,and El Salvador, and the invasion of Grenada. Some people were convinced that Latin America was America's vulnerable back door, and that the Soviets had all sorts of plans to exploit this. You still see a bit of this kind of thinking around, only these days it's people who think Chinese and/or UN troops are hiding in Mexico, waiting to help the evil whoevers take over the US.

john whitesand said...

I got to read this novel as a recommendation, I didn't expect to like it, but it was a good one! I never really read into the political subtlety that the book hinted on. I was more enthralled that it felt like the 80s action flick like Terminator and Predator.