A psychedelic post-cyberpunk novel set in US/Mexico borderland

The effect is surreal, kind of a Blade–Runner-in-the-Mexican-desert feel, but not ambiguous. Ultimately, Deal pulls the intricacies of the plot together neatly and masterfully, with each component landing exactly where it should and holding its weight throughout. Furthermore, the author demonstrates a formidable grasp of the political and social climates of modern Mexico, the Toltecs and other aspects of ancient Mexican history, theories on emerging technology and its place in society, the pitfalls of late capitalism, and desert sex cults.


Like most Americans who don’t qualify for health insurance, Don smuggles himself across the border to find affordable healthcare in Tijuana. He anticipates a couple weeks of bullshit and beer at Bar Sully while his payment clears, but ends up running for his life after becoming a contestant on a ludicrous cartel game show. Luna, a rookie livecaster, follows an anonymous tip into Tijuana’s corporate gulags, where deported Americans assemble consumer junk to reclaim citizenship. Tijuana’s Haitian police captain, Kervens, has a taste for designer telepathics and virtual reality, but he’s willing to give up everything he’s worked for to find the woman whose head he keeps appearing in while stoned. Joined by a naive but faithful Mennonite, Don and Luna embark on a perilous journey through the desert wilds of borderland Baja, pursued by circuit-bent Border Patrol automatons, a cartel with a twisted sense of humor, and the constant need to captivate viewers.

Does reality exist when no one is watching?

Ketcel the novel and soundtrack were released by San Diego independent publisher and outsider music label Stay Strange, purveyors of cultural oddities and curators of esoteric art & music events.


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“From the audacious world-building to the playful allusions and Easter eggs, Ketcel is a work of sheer creativity … [it] takes on big philosophical ideas and heavy historical & cultural topics, while also giving the reader some simple, relatable storylines … Very clever and well-done.”

Scott Stambach, author of the ALA Alex Award-winning novel, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

“This extraordinary story captures the spirit, strangeness, complexity, and potential of this border region … after reading Ketcel, I’m no longer certain that the life I’ve been living isn’t an intense axol haze, and that at any moment I will snap awake to find myself in the middle of a mosh pit at a crazy noise show in the bowels of the Chinese tunnels underneath Mexicali. For maximum effect, read while waiting in line to cross the border.”

Dr. Mael Vizcarra, filmmaker, La Línea and Pánico en Pánuco

“ … [Ketcel] holds within its cyber text, the keys of the ancient future. Who among you will decipher this codex? Xolotl is holding open the portal. Enter at your own risk. To vanish into the fifth world is very possible, and this book is no accident.”

Ayakel Quetzalcoatl, shaman/artist, The Institute of Perception


Chad Deal is an author and musician based in San Diego, California.

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