IN A WORLD OF THE NEAR FUTURE,
WHERE DECENT PEOPLE LIVE IN FEAR,
WHERE JUSTICE IS DYING AND
THE LAW PROTECTS THE GUILTY―
THE COMBAT OPERATIONS POLICE COME ROARING IN!
The bleeding heart lawmakers have taken lethal weapons out of the hands of the law enforcers―and in the world’s largest city criminals are on a perpetual holiday. Rape, murder, robbery, and sabotage are the order of the day. The answer:
COMBAT OPERATIONS POLICE
A special enforcement unit made up of the toughest, bravest, and most cunning street-smart fighting men, using the best in weaponry―including Andy Jumbles, an android, indestructable against bullet, dynamite, or laser. They are heading right into the deadly shadows of Manhattan to stomp the human trash that rules the dark―and give the city back to its people!
You know, in a way, this is a bit refreshing. I haven’t had an opportunity to tell people to avoid a book in a while.
To be fair, I’m not at all sure what’s going on with this book. On its face, it seems to be a crazy right-wing circlejerk that blames all of the problems on things like immigration and hippies and the entertainment industry and the first amendment. But, as a narrative, it also revels in the things that the main characters despise. I hate to give this book credit, but there’s something there that I think I’m missing.
“Hal Stryker” is a pen name for an author I’ve gotten to be familiar with. He’s George H. Smith, not to be confused with George O. Smith. Apart from the science fiction stuff I’ve reviewed, he was also quite prolific in writing in other genres, with titles ranging from Sorority Sluts (1962) to Sexodus! (1963). Honestly, I’m not trying to shame the guy for writing pornography. I don’t hold that against him at all. What gets me, though, is how much of NYPD 2025 seems to want to shame pornography, among other things.
This book has layers but some of those layers are so gross I don’t want to delve too deeply into the whole thing. It’s like buying a delicious five-layer dip and then discovering that one of the layers is cat poop.
The hero of this book is Zack Ward. We only learn his full name after knowing him as Captain Zack for most of the novel. He’s an army man. He’s been away from America for the past 25 years, fighting Her enemies. He’s been doing it illegally, mind you, as the Army was disbanded at some point in the past. He’s a literal one-man army, and he’s been killing just about everybody for a long while yet. Now he’s back in the United States and everything has gone all wacko. This is the first time I’ve ever seen that particular angle used to give us a point-of-view character who doesn’t know what’s going on. In this case, I guess, it means that this fish-out-of-water character also gets to use guns a lot.
A brief rundown of the ways that America is terrible in 2025, according to the book:
There’s a president-for-life named Buchanan. Fun fact: he was a television star before he ran for president! Hooray! Similarities end there, though, since PFL Buchanan is steadfastly liberal. He ran for president on the Green Party ticket. He prefers to be referred to as “Mahatma” instead of “Mr. President.” He named his daughter Indira.
PFL Buchanan has completely removed all barriers to immigration. Anybody who wants to come to America can do so at will. As a result, the United States has been downgraded to a third-world country. New York City (which is now a state) is completely enveloped by a thick smog called smudge. Everybody wears “smudge masks” to counter the effects. This development happened because a group called the Luddites demanded that things like nuclear power were against nature, and so declared that the only natural sources of power are…fossil fuels? Especially coal. The Luddites love coal. A very liberal thing to love, that coal industry.
The last big thing that has wrecked the country is that crime is basically legal. Laws only apply to the police, we’re told. Terrible things can go down and the police can’t do anything about it without getting sued. As a result, drugs are commonplace, drug lords are high-ranking citizens, and murder is a form of televised entertainment. I say televised, but there’s a new form of entertainment out there called solidio, which is a sort of 3D-television-sensation medium. Solidio murders are literal murders, broadcast into the homes of everybody in the country because it’s good business and qualifies as “art” so it’s totally legal.
Captain Zack starts the book in some big trouble. He’s about to be “recruited” into the snuff solidio industry by means of some kind of brain scrambler, which is stated to be terrible and painful but legal if used for artistic purposes.
This book has a real bone to pick with artists.
Here’s the thing: while the book is decrying how terrible it is that ultraviolence is now normal, it also depicts that ultraviolence in a way that can only be described as lovingly. There’s a lot of violence in this book. We get to see one of the snuff solidios from Captain Zack’s point of view and it’s honestly quite graphic and terrible and one of the main reasons I suggest nobody ever read this book. It’s truly disgusting, and I’ve read some pretty sickening stuff before.
If this kind of thing is so bad, why depict it so in your story, author? That’s my question. What’s your angle here?
Zack gets rescued from his ordeal by a group of people led by Judge Portia van Wyck, who is mostly described in terms of how pretty she is, particularly her legs. This book likes legs a lot. Normally books like this have boob fetishes, but not this one. Way to stand out.
The rescue sequence is very long. This book spends at least twenty pages describing Zack climbing up a building to set a fire. I swear to you, it’s at least two chapters. None of it moves the story forward at all, and it’s a full ninth of this book. Later on, there’s another action sequence that does it again, only this time Zack is flying some kind of Ford brand aircar against some bad guys. It takes forever, contributes nothing to the plot, and is at least a few chapters long. George H. Smith, you are a master of padding.
Judge van Wyck takes Zack to her headquarters. I fully expected them to have sex, seeing as how George H. Smith is apparently pretty experienced at writing erotica, but I was surprised to find that they do not. In fact, there’s very little explicit sex in this book. There’s a single scene (which does have some major problems), but it takes place between chapters.
Zack expects that he’s going to be thrown into prison or something, but instead, he gets recruited to run a paramilitary force called COP.
He meets some of his underlings, including the android Andy Jumbles. The rest of his crew are, oddly enough, an international fighting force. As much as this book tells us that immigration was one of the things that killed America, it’s weird that Zack’s COP force seems to come from all around the world. Of course, you could say that they are “good immigrants,” and I expect that this is the case. They’re all white immigrants except for one Asian guy. There’s also a black guy who is the brains of the operation, but I don’t remember exactly where he was from. I want to say he was from Britain but I can’t say for sure. I was just surprised that this book included him.
Right after being introduced to this group of people, we leave them for most of the book. Even Andy Jumbles gets only one more appearance, and it’s short. This disappointed me. The front of the book says that this was supposed to be the first book in a series, but the rest of the series never materialized. I did a little research and found out that NYPD 2025 came out the same year that Pinnacle books dissolved, so I guess that answers that question.
Oh, Zack gets a nickname and his very own smudge mask. The mask has a skull on it. His nickname is Captain Death.
Is…is this book a ripoff of Judge Dredd? Dredd’s first appearance was in ’77, so it’s just about possible.
Captain Death’s first mission, which he does almost entirely alone because he’s that kind of hero even though the book took a long while to introduce us to the people who work for him, is to find out who the Slasher is. The Slasher is the star of the number-one rated snuff solidio show in the country. He’s
He’s a guy wearing a turban and he kills people with a scimitar.
His identity is a closely-guarded secret, but Zack is gonna get him. Or her? It could be either.
The reason this is important is because the president’s daughter, Indira, has been kidnapped. It’s believed that she’s being set up to be a Slasher victim, something you’d think is illegal but since it’s in the name of entertainment and art there’s a good chance nobody would ever be prosecuted. Yeah, this book really doesn’t like the idea of the first amendment and is going to slippery-slope the hell out of it to make sure that you don’t like it either.
Zack’s plan is to infiltrate the studio and be there when the Slasher strikes so that he can strike first. This plan lasts all of about two pages. He’s assigned to “bodyguard” the biggest lady solidio star in the country, Foxxy van Pelt. What’s the deal with people named “van” something in this world? That makes two. I may have missed others.
On his first day at work, Foxxy gets jumped by not one but three Slashers. There’s a very gory battle, with heads getting split open and all sorts of stuff like that. There are also shouts of “infidel” and “Allah” if you were wondering how this book might actually get more offensive. It turns out that none of these guys are the real Slasher, they’re just members of his/her fan club.
Zack takes Foxxy into hiding. Here are some things about Foxxy:
She’s 22 but she looks 14. This is her chief asset. She also has nice legs. I was curious why the book had her be actually 22 and not just run with the offensiveness and say that there’s no age of consent in this future America or something. Just pile on some pedophilia too. It turns out that she’s the only character that Zack ever has sex with, so I guess that’s the reason. We can’t have the hero also be a pedophile. So why make them have sex at all? I dunno.
The other thing about Foxxy is that, when we first meet her, she’s totally useless. She doesn’t understand anything about the world around her, she’s spoiled, and she’s incapable of helping in any meaningful way. It drives Zack crazy having to take care of her. Within a few chapters, though, she suddenly turns out to be rather competent and helpful. There’s no transition, though, so it feels weird. There’s never a moment when she realizes her true value as a person, has a training montage, or anything like that. She doesn’t grow, she just shifts abruptly.
There’s a lot of action until the book is nearly over. Zack and Foxxy narrow down the potential Slashers to four people. The couple goes and talks to three of those people, each time thinking that this is indeed the Slasher before moving on to the next. After the third interview, Zack goes “I know who the Slasher is” and then sets up an elaborate trap to catch him/her.
Foxxy goes back to the solidio studio and stars in her newest film, where she’s likely to get killed. Sure enough, the Slasher shows up and Zack puts a stop to the murder, only to find once again that this isn’t the real Slasher. It’s Indira Buchanan, the president’s daughter, who isn’t kidnapped at all but rather on some kind of a trip where she wants to murder somebody for giggles. She tells Zack (and us) what she set out to do and it’s just about the worst thing I’ve read in a very long time.
Avoid this book.
Zack breaks her wrist (he breaks a lot of wrists in this book) and cuffs her to a pipe and sets out to find the real Slasher. Again.
The book is mostly over.
The real Slasher turns out to be an old guy named Gilbert, who runs something called the Culture Defense Committee. We learn this when Zack hollers his real name at him in the middle of the climactic fight. He was the one out of the four suspects that we didn’t meet during the pseudo-procedural scene, and that bothered me a lot. I think it was supposed to be a surprise when we found out who he was, but since we’d never actually met him before, it lacked any emotional impact at all.
Anyway, big gory finale happens. Judge van Wyck shows up again and says that Zack did a good job except for the fact that everything he did means that COP is going to lose all government funding, which is bad. Foxxy steps in and says that she’s got billions of dollars burning a hole in her pocket, so why doesn’t she just join the group? Everybody thinks this is a good idea and the book ends.
Perhaps this book’s most grievous sin is the long, detailed sequence where a woman is brutally tortured and murdered for entertainment. It’s supposed to be disgusting that people would watch that kind of thing and enjoy it, but the fact that it takes up like six pages of this book just makes me think about how hypocritical that claim is.
But somewhere down the rest of the list of sins is the fact that we see the android Andy Jumbles only twice in this book. He’s got two heads and four arms, people!
I guess if the series had continued we would have seen more of him.
There’s the fact that this book doesn’t seem to understand what political positions it’s trying to demonize. We’ve got liberal Luddites who hate nuclear power, which does make a degree of sense, but it’s because of them that coal smoke fills the air of the country, which makes less sense.
We’ve got a president who is committed to peace and compassion and free expression. He idolizes Mohandas Gandhi. And yet he’s declared himself president-for-life and his policies have led to the downfall of the nation.
I think this book actually demonizes Gandhi.
It’s supposed to be gross that solidio lets a person have sex with women who look like teenagers, yet our hero actually has sex with one of those stars that look like teenagers.
Pornography is so rampant that it’s destroying the idea of “real sex.” The author of this book wrote pornography.
The regular police aren’t allowed to do their jobs because arresting people is a violation of their civil rights, but a militarized police force named COP gets to go around literally killing people with few repercussions.
I get that the main motivation of this book was probably a paycheck, and I respect that. Still, I feel like the book was written in a big hurry. Smith probably got a letter from Pinnacle that said something like “Thirty bucks. Demonize liberals. Lots of violence. Maybe some sex.” And he said, “I need the thirty bucks.”
I don’t blame him for that. I do blame the publisher for putting him up to it. Smith wrote some decent science fiction, as I’ve seen. The Annwn books were at least entertaining. This book didn’t do him justice, and the ISFDB lists this as his last science fiction work before he died in ’96. Sure, that probably means he wrote some other stuff outside of the genre, but it’s still sad.
One thing this book does show is how little has changed in the political atmosphere since the Reagan years. Right wing scaremongering makes as little rational sense today as it does in this book. I wish there were a happy takeaway from that, but I don’t see one.