RETRO READS: Streetlethal by Steven Barnes

Hi all!  Welcome to Retro Reads, where I talk about my favorite books that were published at least ten years ago. You can still find most of them online, though sometimes they have been re-released with a different cover and/or title. I will let you know if a book is out of print and/or otherwise unavailable.


StreetLethalStreet Lethal alt cover










Steven Barnes

Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction

Publication Date: 1983

Status: Out of print/Available used

Streetlethal was my first purchase from Borderlands Books in San Francisco. ūüôā I’d already become a fan of Steven Barnes’¬†¬†books Lion’s Blood and Great Sky Woman (I checked them out from the public library), but I’d never heard of Streetlethal until I saw it while browsing in the bookstore. I bought it and another of his (unknown to me) books, The Kundalini Equation.

Streetlethal takes place in a somewhat dystopian future Los Angeles. The story centers around Aubrey Knight, a highly skilled nullboxer (nullboxing is like MMA to the nth degree) who becomes an enforcer for the Ortegas, a powerful drug family who also dabbles in black market organ selling and prostitution. ¬†Aubry is set up by his new girlfriend/drug addict (guess who is her supplier?)¬†because he wants to quit working for the Ortegas–which is not done–and sent to a maximum security prison for murder.

(Never trust a big butt and a smile, Aubry.)

He eventually escapes and goes after Luis Ortega, the man who orchestrated his set-up, which is how he meets Promise–a woman who had taken Aubry’s ex-girlfriend/snitch under her wing and got her into rehab. Promise becomes Aubry’s “in” to the Ortegas, with interesting results.

The technological advances in the novel are quite mind-boggling, especially considering that the book was written in the early 1980s. Barnes’s gift is showcasing the range of human emotion in all of his characters. In Aubry Knight and, eventually, Promise, we get everything from euphoria/”top of the world”; to the depths of despair when your world is snatched from beneath your feet; to the unique mindset of athletes, especially professional ones; to the¬†confusion and borderline resignation when things don’t quite work out the way you’d planned. In his strong secondary characters (Tomaso Ortega and Kevin Warrick are excellent) we get the roller-coaster ride of power plays, drug addiction, insecurity, family dynamics, and the urgent drive that comes from feeling like time is running out when you have too much to do. It’s also nice to read a post-apocalyptic¬†novel that doesn’t include zombies; then again, zombies weren’t as much of a thing in the eighties.

I missed the memo that Streetlethal is the first in a trilogy (it pays to read those last few pages of advertisements in a book), and that Aubry’s journey continues in¬†Gorgon Child and Firedance (that has been rectified–thank you, Amazon used books). Fans of dystopian stuff, martial arts, science wonks, and diverse sci-fi/speculative fiction would enjoy this novel.

Thanks for stopping by.

Clarion Write-A-Thon: Day 2

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s count: 1,196

Total words written: 1,196


I mentioned in a previous post that I am participating in the Clarion Write-A-Thon.  It runs from June 22 РAugust 2.

Day 1, which was yesterday (6/22), fell on a day when I was relaxing, so I did nothing but binge on past episodes of Royal Pains. ūüėÄ Today, Day 2, I got back in the saddle. I updated my writer profile so that I can keep abreast of my writing project, and I dug up my project. For this go-round, I decided to do only 25,000 words. The contest runs over 35 days, which means that I will need to write at least 715 words per day to meet my goal.

I have several unfinished sci-fi-/speculative fiction things that are languishing in storage, so I dug them out and looked them over. While I haven’t decided if I’m going to do a full novel or a collection of short stories (I have both), I do know that this Write-A-Thon is going to be a serious challenge, no matter what I write.

Sci Fi is not my gift. I like to read it (or rather, I like reading speculative fiction better than hard-core sci fi), I admire those who write it, but I’m not one of those who can do it easily. I have tried writing short stories (a format which is also one of my writing weaknesses), and submitted them to big dogs like Asimov Magazine and Lightspeed, only to get rejected several times (hey…go big or go home, right?). So to actually enter the Clarion Write-A-Thon is either a testament to my desire to get better as a writer, or an aspersion on my sanity.

Anyway, I am revisiting the theme of what was supposed to be a novel, and started over. I like the changes that I’ve made so far and I’m excited about where it’s going, even as early as it is in the game. Today I finished 1,196 words. Yay me!

Now…back to the final edits of my upcoming October book. No rest for the weary!

Thanks for stopping by.