Tek Net is the ninth (and final) Tek novel published by William Shatner. It, like all of the Tek novels, was written by Ron Goulart. The novels are futuristic detective stories detailing the exploits of Cosmos Detective Agency operatives Jake Cardigan and Sid Gomez. I read, and really enjoyed, the first four novels in the series back in the 1990s, but somehow lost track of it when the later books were released. When I stumbled on Tek Net in a thrift shop a few weeks ago I couldn’t help picking it up, and I’m glad I did.
The European Teklords have developed a new delivery method for tek—a digital drug that delivers addictive virtual fantasies. The new delivery system eliminates the need for chips and headgear. The new tek will be a boon for the European cartels, and force their American counterparts out of business. Jill Bernardino, a former tek addict and second wife (of four) of Sid Gomez, becomes a pawn between the American and European Teklords when she learns about the plans. She is kidnapped in quick order, but not before she makes a call to Sid pleading for help.
Tek Net is less science fiction than action. It is told in an almost frantic pace—the plot moves like a rocket from scene to scene. There is no down time. Every word has the overwhelming purpose of moving the plot forward. Sid Gomez is the center point of the story, and Jake Cardigan (the usual primary player) is basically in a supporting role. There is not much mystery about the story’s trajectory (or final destination), but it is populated by a long list of villains who range from frightening to hilarious (in a good way). Think of a geriatric gangster who paints, and has a flock of virtual sheep in his backyard.
The setting is a future Southern California, which is simply known as Greater Los Angeles. A place where smog has gotten so bad it is unbreathable in places, and robots do the majority of the dirty work. There are a surprising number of “attractive” robots, an impressive amount of tek addicts, and even more unscrupulous citizens. A particularly vivid scene is a dilapidated theme park called Hollywood Starwalk Park. It is a sort of robotic version of a wax museum where robots made up as Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin recreate classic films—
“When the blonde actress on Gable’s left winked at Jill, her plastiglass eyeball fell out. It hit the simulated white gravel of the path and bounced once.”
Tek Net is pure fun. There is not a whit of character development, and the science fiction tends to be less futuristic than simply renaming common items with an often cold and futuristic sound—“vidphone,” “guardbots,” “plastiglass,” “skull-mail,” etc.—but for what the story lacks in literary development it makes up for in brisk, straight-forward action, and a sort of cordial humor.