In the Face
Lorelei Armstrong
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Buy *In the Face* by Lorelei Armstrong online

In the Face
Lorelei Armstrong
Iota Publishing
360 pages
October 2008
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Dr. Jai Varent is a famous man, the leading plastic surgeon specializing in shaping, the technology which allows parents to ensure their child will be beautiful. He has a multitude of famous clients, the most prominent of whom is the actor Evo Selig, who is adored by people the world over. But Dr. Varent doesn't only shape - he also tries to clean up the work of doctors who botch people's faces. In a world where beauty is prized above all, Varent is a wealthy man who leads a nearly charmed life - until he finds a dead body on his rooftop garden.

Evo Selig is one of the most beautiful people in the world, and one of the few actors who admits to having been shaped. His films are money-making machines, and his adoring fans - both male and female - wait for hours to get just one glimpse of his beloved face. There is a darker side to his fame: tech wizards run a booming business in Evo Selig fanfic, illegal films using perfect, digitally created simulations. The simulations are so good, in fact, that it is almost impossible to tell what is real and what is fiction. Crazed fans create sims of Evo doing everything from having illicit sexual encounters to going on murderous rampages. When the security cameras at Varent's home show Evo dumping the dead body in the garden, the world wonders if he is being framed or if he is indeed a murderer.

Assigned, along with his partner, Detective Cleinrath, to discover the truth about the body in Dr. Varent's garden, Detective Daniel MacEvoy finds himself hiding a dangerous secret. His is secretly obsessed with Evo Selig, and having to investigate him brings the detective too close for comfort. As he and his partner delve into the seedy world of black-market sims, MacEvoy's own involvement threatens to be exposed. As the two detectives close in on the true murderer, the lines between fantasy and reality are crossed, and the truth may be hidden forever behind a perfect simulation.

This novel shows a lot of promise but doesn't quite deliver. The beginning of the novel feels chaotic, introducing a large number of characters with no real background or explanation. It's difficult to keep track of the various personalities, and the reader spends a fair amount of time feeling disoriented. Additionally, because the author chooses not to ground the novel in a specific era, we lose the sense of time and place that could help us identify with the characters and events that occur.

It is, however, a fascinating premise, leaving the reader eager to continue even when in doubt as to what is going on. The author eventually gives enough background information to make several of her characters, including Dr. Varent and Detective MacEvoy, into very interesting, enigmatic figures. Lorelei Armstrong has won several screenwriting contests, and that influence is easy to detect in her spare, succinct writing style. One can almost imagine this novel as a movie, and perhaps it would be better suited, with the camera able to fill in details the written word leaves out.

This is an author with a tremendous amount of talent. In the Face is a fine first effort, and I hope Armstrong will continue to publish; I expect her work will only grow more interesting and exciting in the future.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Elizabeth Schulenberg, 2008

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