Sam Usher is a data technician who works in a blacked-out city defined by drugs and dreams. He has come close to death once and would like to try it again. When he meets Candy Strange, he finally gets his chance.
"After losing his long-term girlfriend and as a consequence of doing too much booze and drugs, computer-whiz Sam Usher falls in with an oddly glamorous couple in downtown Auckland. The man, Jules, is something of a mystery himself, involved in abstruse mathematics but with diplomatic connections. His lover Candy is a rather more hard-boiled egghead, an expert on chaos theory and the dynamics of water. And it's not long before the three of them start to hang out together, doing drugs the way they do teabags in Coronation Street. Then when Jules is found battered almost to death and in a coma, and Candy does a disappearing act, our gallant cokehead hero sets out to find answers to a few questions that have been bothering him, and that's when the Big Trouble starts. Packed into the last 80 pages of this snappy yarn are enough near-death experiences to last most people a lifetime, if that's not a tautology. While the book may be a bit short on fleshing out its characters, the plot is beautifully paced. Apart from Sam, the sardonic Philip Marlowe of the Antipodes, Jules and Candy remain little more than problems to be solved in this puzzling but satisfying story. Yet satisfying it most definitely is: mystery piles upon mystery with intriguing consistency, though never so as to confuse the reader - merely to baffle him! Electric may be shocking at times (just like the real thing), but it is never less than gripping: it almost makes you want to go to Auckland, and there's no higher praise than that.
"Electric unveils the disturbing supremacy of digital technology and the equally disturbing infiltration of illicit drugs into everyday society, all within the darkened landscape of a broken metropolis. For Taylor, it's all about the dissolution of personal identity and the crushing anomie of post-modern society, each becoming more unhinged the longer the power remains off."
-- Wendy Cavenett, HQ, March 2003
"This is a rare and refreshing book. Taylor composes a tricky, teasing plot out of the blackness, revealing a gloomy city where sexy ice queens reveal spines tattooed with tiny equations. The Nick Cave of New Zealand literature."
-- Claire Harvey, The Australian, April 19 2003
"Set during a summer of endless power cuts, Electric is the weird and occasionally disturbing story of three drifting mathematicians and their tangled world of drug-taking and tormenting numerical theories... The plot seems to unfold in another world where reality is shifting and elusive. Taylor's impressively laconic prose style is enough to maintain the tension of the narrative right up to the end."
-- Clover Hughes, Observer
"A massive power cut temporarily removed Auckland from civilisation back in 1998. The ensuing confusion appears to have inspired Taylor's latest offering. His setting is a New Zealand you won't see in Lord of the Rings: a city suffering from the same urban malaise as glitzier metropolises on other continents. Our protagonist, Samuel Usher, is a drug addict who supports himself by recovering data from damaged computers. He falls in with a couple of drifters... who occupy themselves with recondite mathematics. But the favoured activity for all three involves powders on polished surfaces. When Jules dies in mysterious circumstances, Usher sets off to find out why... Thematically, Taylor's concerns are twofold: the infinite extent of digitised culture; and the limitless flood of narcotics (not to mention the global industry behind it). Electric looks at what happens when chaos rises up to warp these apparently unassailable worlds. If the characters at times appear to lack autonomy and individuation, that is to be expected from mileus in which the boundaries around personal identity are dissolving in a technological and chemical flux. Don't be put off if this makes the novel sound self-indulgent and academic -- it isn't. First and foremost it is an accomplished noir thriller. Taylor has a fine feel for detail, a strong sense of how to build tension and his prose is clear and uncluttered, with mesmeric undertones. Noteworthy contemporary fiction."
-- Roger Howard, Time Out London (Book of the Week) Jan 22, 2003
"The hypnotic pull of Taylor's story lies in the zigzag dance of its forlorn characters, casting a murky, uneasy sense of doom... a book that offers subtle rewards for conoisseurs of entropy noir."
-- The Guardian
"... Hums with energy... an inventive and intelligent thriller."
"Dark, intense, fast-paced and perceptive, both noir literary thriller and pulp crime fiction... Cool, surreal and sexy - make it the first book you read in 2003"
"Blank, noirish, drugged-up... an intense juxtaposition of big ideas"
-- Scarlett Thomas, Scotland on Sunday
Chad Taylor is the author of the novels Departure Lounge, Electric, Shirker, Heaven, Pack of Lies, The Church of John Coltrane and the short story collection The Man Who Wasn't Feeling Himself.