Well, although I’d originally planned to read a thriller novel next, I was more in the mood for sci-fi (and for reading slowly too). So, I thought that I’d re-read a book that I’d originally planned to review last November. I am, of course talking about K. W. Jeter’s 1996 novel “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night”.
This was a novel that I first read in 2011. However, I lost my copy of it and didn’t remember that much about it. So, when l I happened to find a copy of both this novel and K. W. Jeter’s “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” in a second-hand bookshop in Petersfield in 2018, I was eager to re-read both of them with the hope of posting reviews of them in November 2019 (for reasons any fan of “Blade Runner” will understand).
Of course, I only got round to reviewing the previous novel and Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” back then. So, this review is long overdue.
But, before I begin, I should probably point out that you need to have watched the first “Blade Runner” film at least a couple of times – in addition to having read P.K.D’s “Electric Sheep” and also Jeter’s “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human” too before reading this novel in order to get the most out of it.
Even then, you’ll probably still need to pay attention and take notes whilst reading. So, yes, this is very much a novel for die-hard fans rather than people new to the franchise. Likewise, ever since the release of “Blade Runner 2049” in 2017, this novel is no longer considered canonical.
Anyway, let’s take a look at “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.
The novel is set several weeks or months after the ending of “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”. Rick Deckard and Sarah Tyrell are living in a hovel on Mars under assumed names. Although there are rumours that the U.N. will resume transport to the outer colonies, the colonists are stuck on the planet and are slowly deteriorating psychologically from stimulus deprivation (something only staved off by either an expensive cable TV subscription or illicit religion-based hallucinogens called “dehydrated deities”).
Running low on cash, Deckard has agreed to be a consultant for a film adaptation of his career. Filming is taking place on a space station near Mars. The novel begins with a re-creation of his encounter with Leon, performed by an actor who looks identical to him (thanks to the wonders of CGI). However, when “Rachel” shows up and shoots Leon, Deckard happens to spot that the Leon replicant has actually been killed. Furious about this, he goes to find the director to get some answers. Or at least to beat some answers out of him.
Meanwhile, Dave Holden shows up at the station with a talking briefcase. He sneaks around for a while, trying to find a way to approach Deckard without getting noticed. One of the production crew mistakes him for the actor playing Dave Holden and insists on a rehearsal. Dave goes along with it, only to be shot and killed by another Leon replicant. A man called Marley then shoots the replicant just as Deckard arrives. After a scuffle and an argument, Deckard quits the job and storms off of the station. But, just as he’s leaving, a production assistant hands him the briefcase. It has his initials on it.
Back on the surface of Mars, Sarah Tyrell is alone at home. With the events of the past weighing on her mind and only a talking clock and calendar (both of whom are probably distant relatives of Talkie Toaster) to keep her company, she isn’t in a good place psychologically. She has recently bought an illegal gun and two bullets. One for Deckard and one for herself…
One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it was an absolute joy to read 🙂 Yes, the plot does get a little convoluted but – as a whole – it is very true to the tone and style of the original film whilst also adding lots of interesting new stuff too 🙂 In fact, some moments are even “More ‘Blade Runner’ than ‘Blade Runner’“, if this makes sense 🙂 Seriously, if you love the atmosphere of the film, then you’ll love this book. Plus, although this novel is non-canonical these days, it goes into a lot more depth about some of the stuff that eventually appeared in “Blade Runner 2049” too 🙂
So, I should probably start by talking about the novel’s sci-fi elements. Although this novel includes a few things which you probably wouldn’t expect to see in anything “Blade Runner”-related (like time distortions, “dehydrated deities”, morphogenic fields, memetic idea-weapons etc..), all of this “out there” stuff is very much in keeping with the weird 1960s science fiction of Philip K. Dick. Not to mention that all of this weird stuff is also there for important plot-related reasons and to add a bit more depth to the “world” of the story – even if it might seem a bit out of place at first.
As you’d expect from anything “Blade Runner” related, this novel is absolutely brimming with intellectual depth too 🙂 In addition to further exploring some of the central themes of the original film (eg: authority, humanity, moral complexity etc…), the novel also adds a few interesting themes of it’s own. In addition to further exploring the P.K.D-inspired concepts of simulacra and artificiality through several meta-fictional scenes that reference the original film and the idea of people becoming addicted to cable TV and religion-based hallucinogens, the novel is also a much more introspective story than you might expect.
Although this novel does have a complex and gritty “film noir”/conspiracy thriller-style plot, the main focus is on introspection and personal discovery. Both Deckard and Sarah go on weird inner journeys via hallucinogens or time travel. These are often heavily focused on their memories, which not only allows the novel to explore how the past affects the present day, but also to explore the concept of unreliable memory too. Not to mention that this also links in with the theme of memories from the original film too.
And, talking of the films, “Blade Runner 2049” probably took a lot of inspiration from this book. Whether it is the “rep-symps”, pro-replicant rebels who are only glimpsed in “Blade Runner 2049” but play a very large “off screen” role in this novel or the dusty desert landscapes or even the idea of replicants being able to reproduce, it’s fairly obvious that someone involved with the second film has probably read this book 🙂 Yet, at the same time, this novel is also very different from the second film 🙂
Plus, like with Jeter’s “Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human”, this novel also includes a few creepy horror elements that are in keeping with the style of the series. In addition to a few moments of gory horror and some creepy locations, this story focuses quite heavily on psychological and character-based horror too – which really helps to add a bit of unsettling darkness to the story 🙂
As for the characters, they are excellent 🙂 Not only is Deckard very true to the grizzled, rough and morally-ambiguous character that you’ll know from the films, but Sarah Tyrell also gets a lot of extra characterisation too. She’s this wonderfully complicated character who is both very sympathetic and extremely unsympathetic at the same time. In addition to the return of a few familiar faces (eg: Roy Batty, J.F. Sebastian etc..), the malevolent ghost of Eldon Tyrell also seems to lurk in the background (via his past actions and effects on the characters) too. Seriously, I cannot praise the characterisation in this novel highly enough 🙂
The writing in this novel is absolutely stellar too 🙂 Jeter’s third-person narration is written in a style that is both hardboiled and highly-descriptive at the same time. Whilst this slows down the pacing of the story a bit, it means that many scenes – especially those that reference the original film – are actually more “Blade Runner” than the original film. Although the main plot may be set on the dusty colonies of Mars, there’s still plenty of time for lots of beautiful, poetic descriptions of the “neon-veined” streets of future L.A and they are blissful to read 🙂 Seriously, the writing in this novel is an absolutely perfect fit with the film that inspired it 🙂
In terms of length and pacing, this novel is interesting. Although it is a fairly efficient 309 pages in length, the highly-descriptive writing style, ultra-complex plot, very tiny print and heavy focus on introspection mean that this will be a much slower-paced novel than you might expect. But, surprisingly, this isn’t a bad thing here.
Slow pacing is one of the strengths of the original films, giving the audience time to think and to drink in the amazing atmosphere and lavish visual details. It’s also an antidote to the rapidly-edited ultra-fast films that are so common these days. And it is great to see that the novel recognises this and uses it to full advantage – even if it means that this novel will take you longer to read than you might expect (and you’ll also have to pay attention and take a few notes to make sense of the plot too).
As for how this twenty-four year old novel has aged, it both has and hasn’t aged well. On the one hand, the novel’s descriptions of things like CGI and the opioid epidemic feel eerily prescient, not to mention the fact that the characters and writing are timelessly exquisite too. Plus, given how much of an inspiration this novel seems to have been on the modern film sequel to “Blade Runner”, it’s also ahead of its time in this regard too. On the other hand, you should also expect to see a few slightly dated and/or “politically incorrect” descriptions or moments every now and then.
All in all, although this novel’s plot can get a bit convoluted and also contains a few fairly “out there” sci-fi elements, it is a worthy sequel to “Blade Runner” 🙂 It is dripping with atmosphere, is true to the tone of the original film and is just an absolute joy to read 🙂 If you’ve seen the films and you want to learn more about their intriguingly mysterious futuristic “world” and the characters who live within it, then you absolutely need to read Jeter’s spin-off novels.
If I had to give this novel a rating out of five, it would get a five.