Review: Pleasure Model by Christopher Rowley (Netherworld Trilogy 1)

Rook Venner bring the evidence home, said evidence being Plesur, a pleasure model with long golden hair, deep blue eyes, a pert little nose and large mouth loaded with heavy lips that works like triggers on the heterosexual male mind all packed into a gorgeous young body, to protect her from rape. Only to wake up in the middle of the night by a phone call telling him to get out NOW!

Presenting Heavy Metal Pulp, a new line of novels combining noir fiction with fantastic art featuring the themes, story lines, and graphic styles of Heavy Metal magazine.

In Pleasure Model, the first book in the Netherworld trilogy, down-and out police detective Rook gets a big break when he’s assigned to a bizarre and vicious murder case. The clues are colder than the corpse and the case looks like it’ll remain unsolved—until an eyewitness is discovered. But the witness is a Pleasure Model, an illegal gene-grown human. Plesur’s only purpose is to provide satisfaction to her owner—in any way. When the murderer targets Plesur in order to eliminate the one witness, Rook takes her into hiding to protect her. Thus begins a descent into the dark world of exotic pleasure mods and their illicit buyers and manufacturers. Rook frantically looks for clues, struggling to stay one stop ahead of those looking to kill them both. But is Rook falling under Plesur’s spell….?

Christopher Rowley is a prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy including the Compton Crook Award-winning “The War for Eternity”, “Starhammer”, “Bazil Broketail”, the Books of Arna trilogy, etc. He also co-wrote two television animated series by Robert Mandell, and is the author of the illustrated novel “Arkham Woods”. Rowley lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


The story is fast paced with quite a few improbable but convinient twists in true style with pulp fiction. It starts out simple as a murder investigation but turns out as something much much bigger and more complex.

The plot starts with the vicious and mysterious murder of former military operative  Sangacha while the dominatrix Mistress Julia/Angie hides under the sink in the bath room. She hears the killers, and think they finally caught up with her after 25 years on the run. Her boyfriend was killed 25 years ago before warning her to run, and she has been hiding ever since.

Sangacha was a man riddled with guilt, he had Julia there to whip him on a regular basis to atone for it. What kind of secrets does he hide? Why was he killed? And what was he doing with the pleasure model hiding in the closet? Were the men there for him, Julia or the pleasure model?

Rook Venner is the cop assigned to the case. He and his partner discover the pleasure model, she and a fuzzy photo of Julia/Angie as she flees the scene are the only clues they have. The Feds are also on the case, and Feds here are like nothing you have seen before, they even have a armored robot soldier accompanying them to the crime scene, and they are not the good guys. Rook sets out to solve the case any way he can, but its not easy being a knight in not so shiny armor with an oversexed not so bright pleasure model to protect while the other sides do their best to capture it and kill him and they have resources he couldn’t even dream of.


The book is a delightfull heavy metal mix of pulp fiction, noir crime, cyberpunk and erotica. The format is 240 pages divided in 21 chapters with fantastic illustrations by Justin Norman on about two thirds of the pages, see example below.

The story is told in 3rd person with either Rook or Angie as the voice.

I would guess there is quite a few people, a lot of them women who have a problem with this book which clearly caters to men with men being men, women being objects, at least on the surface. The story is a bit randy and explicit but not more than the usual romance novel. All of it is gritty enjoyable noir.


The cover is made by Gregory Manchess. The cover perfectly recovers the look and feeling of pulp fiction while being relevant to the story. Please visit his website and have a look at his illustrations.

Justin Norman [his deviantart page]made the inside illustrations, they add another dimension to the text, especially in the action sequences they seems to speed up the action. I enjoyed the illustrations a lot, though there was a few places they where out of sync with the story. They add a movie feel to reading the book.


There are a lot of recognition from noir crime novels in the character types the strong silent hero, the unreliable boss, villains, femme fatales etc

I like to have well thought out characters with interesting backgrounds, and characters that grows and are changed by events in the story. Here the characters have the look and feel of pulp fiction but they all have interesting backgrounds that makes you want to learn more.  They also grows as the story progresses some more than others, a lot more. More character development is found outside the book, on Rowley’s homepage, the story there is sligtly different but more fleshed out.

What is not explained so well is Rooks motivation for being a good guy. Not that it hurt the story much but it would be nice to have more on his background to explain this. And again, there is more on the web, whole chunks of the story that never made it to the book.

World building

The not explained major Emergency (luckily it is explained somewhat on his homepage) that seems to have formed the world is a frustrating lapse in an otherwise well built world. It feels belivable if twisted as New York 2060, with bio-engineered humans (pleasure models), robots, enhancement chips and an assortment of spiffy and useful gadgets. I especially like Ingrid, Rook’s Nookia Supa  an AI with charming personality . It is immensely competent for a personal assistant slash telephone. Left to its own devices, at night, it read 19th century literature and fought bitter doctrinal battles on the Strindberg forum on Newsnet.

I never quite get their current social structure, they used to have  some kind of military dictatorship, now they seems to live in something different, or not? After reading the web project Netherworld on Rowley’s homepage I realize most of the world building I lack used to be there but where designed out of the book. Pity, It would have made this book excellent if they left more of the world-building parts there in my opinion.

My view

The book doesn’t end with a Cliff hanger but leaves enough unresolved that I long for the next volume. I enjoyed the fast paced illustrated action packed spicy  Pleasure Model immensely. It is a good read. It lacks somewhat in depth that can be remedied by checking out Rowley’s homepage. I would recommend it to any adult science fiction fan. I myself can’t wait until I have read the next two Netherworld books. I wonder when they will be out?


Rowley’s homepage contains a Netherworld Web Project with 28 slightly different chapters (the book has 21). The texts are without the delightfully noir illustrations. There is also world building notes in the  ‘Need to Know‘ section