A bleeding sun in a nuclear haze
I enjoyed my time with the previous novel, Necrotech, a lot. Be forewarned that if you don't like the "unlikeable" protagonist trope, this might not sway you. But then again, it just might. Necrotech was the day after a hangover. Riko was figuring her shit out and although the emotional reaction was there...it didn't hit me as hard as Nanoshock.
...was half out the door when the chipset installed at the base of my skull thrummed; a haptic tap, like a finger poking at the top of my spine. A projected call, right to my personal frequency.
In broad strokes, Riko woke up naked, alone, and angry. In this cyberpunk world, everyone has Nanos in their bloodstream. They facilitate a bunch of tech and also heal your wounds. There's a catch, though. The Nanos work too hard, you go necro. Essentially, they take over your chipset, a microchip fused to your mind, and you turn into a kind of cyber-zombie. It sounds a bit tropey but I fully enjoyed it. Not because I hadn't read a cyberpunk zombie novel, but because Riko herself is incredibly likable...in an unlikeable way?!
Any children born within the city are squeezed out with the standard nano package. It’s programmed in, parent to kid. First thing they do is carve a Security Identification Number into the fetal brain, upload that data to the system.
Her reaction is human and her character is crass beyond words, has some toxic masculinity to her--makes sense since she is a runner. Think Shadowrun and you'll have most of the terminology in the book, as well as what the criminal underworld mostly looks like. Chummers, runners, fucking the corporations over, etc. Riko wears this label in such a way that only a feminist writer could pull off. I don't think a male writer could have pulled off this character as well, I really don’t. Her anger is validated, her reactions are honest, and her own difficulties are interrogated via the people she knows in the story.
She flinched. I tore the part of me that cared out and stomped it bloody into the spreading liquid on the floor.
We see the ramifications of the previous book as Riko struggles to maintain her relationships while she is undergoing some of the worst days of her life. Her go to emotion is usually anger. But this "madness," so to speak, is put under a microscope, and it's done very well. I would have been entirely happy to have another quick read where she tore shit up and punched guys in the face that asked her to smile more, and that’s all. K.C Alexander places some normal bullshit women have to deal with in the book as what seems like possibly a form of catharsis, as Riko fucks. Their. Day. Up. And I tell you what, I am here for it.
I breathed. Took in a gulp of air I didn’t know I was missing until her voice crashed into my daze and oxygen tore my world back into pulsating, vibrant color.
It transitions from this familiar territory from the first book not too far in, though. Where Riko is getting her ass handed to her and nevertheless, persisting. She is also dealing with what I surmise as some form of PTSD, as well as the loss of her team socially. This was surprisingly affecting for me. I already enjoyed Riko as a character for her subversion of typical tropes, especially in first wave cyberpunk. But this additional layer felt like an examination of the politics worn on its arm. Not incredibly in-depth, but it is there; I appreciated it.
...a Bolshovekia. Beautiful assault rifle, kicked like a drunk and killed like a dream.
Riko is still badass. Still gets her ass handed to her. Still is trying to figure out what happened to her and her girlfriend, as in the first novel. But we also get a much clearer picture of where she is at emotionally, as well as more structure to this criminal underground. I don't even like Shadowrun and I had a hell of a good time with the book. I am always pleasantly surprised when a cyberpunk decides to say more, and I'm glad the author made space to examine some aspects of the "angry feminist," while still unequivocally flying the middle finger at most everybody.
Keep your eye on your side,” I shouted. She whipped back around. “Lo siento!” “Sorries are for funerals
Come for the viscera being splayed, the angry, fuck off protagonist. Stay for a story that has you rooting for her to knock the teeth out of a guy that grabs her ass, all the while missing her family, her lover, and her home. I was going to talk about it a bit more than these broad strokes, but I think it is enough to say it surmounted my expectations and has more to say than Riko being angry and killing things. Check it out~
...the core of my whole fucking world – sank through my fingers, something inside me broke. This time, I felt it.
A bleeding sun in a nuclear haze