I don’t read sci-fi. I’m largely a fantasy nerd, but I feel like a traitor to my spec. fic. brethren whenever I admit it to someone who offers to lend me something set in a galaxy far far away. I really liked this book.
What can I say? There was enough grounded truth to it, enough immersive world-building (something all us aspiring writers can appreciate, minus high-literature snobs), and enough sheer spectacle – it’s really fun to read.
And that’s all you really need from speculative fiction (take it from someone paying £9,000 a year to learn it over and over again): the Strange made familiar, and the Familiar made strange. D.K. Mok does this with aplomb.
Cyberpunk is a flashy new term for what could realistically be called Space Noire, at least in this instance. We follow Squid, a relatable antiheroine car-jacker whose ambitions reach as far up the social scale as a job she wouldn’t mind admitting to someone who isn’t a criminal. Unfortunately for her, that list is probably the minority of people she meets. Others in the cast include: Casey, a police officer who could be described as the other side of the same coin as Squid; the two gang-leaders, Verona and Pearce; and of course, the other title character, Grief – so named by Squid. Grief is an intriguing idea for a character in that you’ve probably never read, nor seen amnesia handled this well, and certainly not in such a fantastic setting.
The characters are strong, and by that I mean that their weaknesses are many, varied, and believable. They aren’t just super-strong action leads to films you don’t want to see.
The pacing is surprisingly well handled for a book that only has about as many pages as this review has words.
Baltus City is an unreal, and yet massively real backdrop for all of this, and of course plot is what we’re all here for, but that would be telling.
Suffice it to say, there are awesome heists.
Read this book. That’s all I can say, whether you’re a sci-fi fan, a fantasy fan, or someone who thinks they’re above it all. And if you are, why have you read this far?