Severance

Ma, Ling - SeveranceSeverance
by Ling Ma

Shen Fever, a fungal infection, spreads across the globe. Initial symptoms mirror the common cold, but as the infection worsens, infected lose themselves in familiar loops of activity. One of the “fevered” for example, appears to be reading, but her book is upside down, and she is regularly drinking moldy juice. Unable to break free of the loops, the fevered stop eating, drinking, bathing, or doing anything but acting out these rote activities. There is no cure, and the condition is fatal.

Candace Chen, who immigrated to the United States from China when she was six, works at Spectra, a company that helps publishers produce books like Bibles and coffee table books in Asia. Her specialization is Bibles, and she has nightmares about the thin papers used in Bibles getting stuck in the printing press. When Shen Fever hits New York City, her boss wants to keep the office open and selects Candace as part of the small team that will stay–in exchange for an exorbitant bonus.

But when New York City empties, she joins a group of survivors led by the controlling figure, Bob, who had worked in information technology before the fever hit. Bob leads the group to a mysterious Facility where they will be able to survive, though Candace fears that she may be in danger.

I became engrossed in Severance and really enjoyed reading it. However, there is so much going on in Severance, it is hard to condense, and, truly, I am still trying to work out all the implications of the narrative. In addition to the post-apocalyptic narrative, the book is an immigrant story about Candace’s parent’s painful adjustment to life in the United States. It is also a critique of capitalism and the inequities of global trade. Ma makes connections between the routines of employees and the loops of the fevered, and while there is comfort in the familiarity, there is also the risk of being subsumed. The narrative is peppered with phrases that cleverly recur and reinforce the theme of repetition.

In many ways, Severance is my favorite kind of novel: well-written and provocative. It has all the fun (to me at least) of apocalyptic fiction but is elevated by the well-drawn characters, interesting back stories, and thought-provoking themes.

Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an Advance Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review.

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The Dreamers

Walker, Karen Thompson - The DreamersThe Dreamers

by Karen Thompson Walker

Santa Lora College freshman Kara leaves a party early because she feels more tired than she’s ever felt before. Back in her dorm, she falls into bed with her clothes and shoes still on. Her roommate, Mei, finds her in the morning but isn’t alarmed since Kara’s fallen asleep that way before. But when Mei returns that night and Kara hasn’t moved, she calls for help. Soon, the “sleeping sickness” spreads throughout the dorm, the college, and the town until the government issues a cordon sanitaire, quarantining everyone inside.

The Dreamers tracks a handful of Santa Lora denizens: Mei, who had hoped to reinvent herself in college but instead found herself friendless, and her unlikely companion Matthew, whom the students in the dorm nicknamed “Weird Matthew,”; Ben, Annie, and their newborn daughter Gracie whom the new parents would do anything to protect; Sara and Libby, tween daughters of a survivalist and conspiracy theorist who have a soft spot for abandoned animals; Catherine, a psychiatrist from Los Angeles called to consult on the case; and Nathaniel, a biology professor whose partner, Henry, had to be put in a nursing home due to early-onset Alzheimer’s.

With any book shifting between multiple characters’ points of view, there is a risk that some characters are more interesting than others. That certainly happens in The Dreamers. Sisters Sara and Libby are intriguing, scrappy, and independent, and Mei has to push herself beyond her limits, and their stories are more fun to read. If I were a parent, I would probably empathize with Ben more, but instead, I found his reflections on parenting overly sentimental. Catherine is not fully developed, and while I found Nathaniel intriguing, his story was tangential. I applaud Walker for taking a risk in presenting so many viewpoints from diverse characters, but in this case, instead of adding to the tapestry of the story, it tends to dilute it. I think the novel would have been more effective if it offered fewer primary characters.

I love a good epidemic novel, and The Dreamers has interesting elements: a new and inexplicable sickness, people chafing against quarantine, and soldiers out of their element and uncomfortable policing an American town. Supplies run low raising tensions, and with anyone a potential carrier of the sickness, mistrust runs high. Although there are moments when I as a reader feared the worst, the book never indulges in the basest reactions to tragedy. I wonder if I am cynical and this is the point, that such an event doesn’t have to bring out the worst in people, or if in fact the novel is unrealistic about people’s worst impulses in a crisis. Though I’m sure this says more about me than the book, I expected and wanted a higher body count. But, what draws people together and what separates them, sometimes the same thing, is a background for the narrative. The book also highlights the challenges of separating fact from rumor in an the information vacuum that occurs during such tragedies.

The novel meditates on the difference between dream and living states and the nebulous barrier (if any) between past, present, and future. As interesting as these questions are, I’m not sure I feel any more elucidated after reading The Dreamers nor do I have a sense of Walker’s message in raising these questions.

On the surface, as a disaster novel of sorts, The Dreamers is a well-written entry in the genre, and, though flawed, has interesting characters overall. Drilling down into the deeper themes though leaves me feeling like I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be seeing. How much a reader likes the book will depend a lot on what they are seeking.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Murder Book

Redmond, Lissa Marie - The Murder BookThe Murder Book

by Lissa Marie Redmond

The last to leave the office on a Friday night in November, dedicated cold case detective Lauren Riley was startled from her work when she felt an overwhelming pain in her side and fell to the ground. As she realized blood was pooling beneath her, an assailant stomped on her head. In her last moments of consciousness, Riley saw a figure in city-issued police boots walk away holding her distinctive olive-green murder book.

Despite entreaties from her family, doctors, and coworkers to take time off, when Riley wakes up, she is driven to find out why a police officer would attack her and steal the murder book. Trusting only her partner Shane Reese, Riley turns to retired detective Charlie Daley for assistance. Together, they track down an elusive informant who has information about a decades-old murder that may be related to her attack. As they seek evidence for a police conspiracy, they face challenges ranging from a leak, disciplinary action, murderous suspects, and even a car chase on icy Buffalo streets!

Partners Riley and Reese have a fun, teasing-based relationship that is a strength of the novel, and Daley is delightful character as well. The mystery itself isn’t too surprising, but focuses on how the trio will prove the conspiracy, and there are a few twists and turns to keep it interesting.

Although I am not very familiar with Buffalo, we are relatively close, four hours by car, and because of that, the setting felt relatable and exciting. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery was mentioned, and I’ve put that on our places-to-go list. Our winters aren’t as severe as those in Buffalo, but I certainly identified with the cold and snow described in the book. My favorite character might have been Weston, Reese’s dog who becomes a source of comfort to Riley, who, as a “good mother,” even posts pictures of him on her Facebook page.

While I did get caught up in the book, I was slightly frustrated by the awkward transitions between scenes that were often abrupt and at time confusing. Some of the characters’ motivations weren’t sufficiently clear or justified, and that detracted from the novel to me. I also didn’t like some of Riley’s backstory which I viewed as trite: having domestic abuse in the past, being entangled in a strange relationship with a past client/murder suspect (which also reminded me too much of the Frieda Klein series).

The Murder Book did seamlessly introduce a segue into the next volume in the series without leaving the central mystery unresolved. It promises to deliver tension between Riley and Reese and a cunning antagonist.

Thank you to Netgalley and Midnight Ink for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author’s Website

Miracle Creek

Kim, Angie - Miracle Creek.pngMiracle Creek: A Novel

by Angie Kim

Korean immigrants Park and Young Yoo opened the Miracle Submarine, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber large enough for six, in the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia. They offered this experimental therapy to clients with autism, cerebral palsy, Crohn’s disease, and even infertility. Only open about a month, one August day challenged the new business owners. Protestors against using the 100% oxygen therapy on autism patients picketed and blocked the driveway. Mylar balloons released into the power lines cut electricity to the property, leaving them to operate solely on generator power.

And then tragedy struck: a fire ignited the highly flammable oxygen in the chamber and spread to the barn housing the “submarine.” Henry Ward, an eight-year-old with autism and Kitt Kozlowski, mother of another autistic boy receiving treatment, were killed. Dr. Matt Thompson, a patient with infertility, who had a mysterious relationship with Mary Yoo, was afflicted with serious burns on his hands and lost two fingers. Pak was paralyzed, and his daughter, Mary, was in a coma for eight weeks.

A year later, Henry’s mom, Elizabeth, was on trial for arson, attempted murder, and murder. Abe Patterley, district attorney, and Shannon Haug, Elizabeth’s defense lawyer, were skilled adversaries. As Abe carefully made his case and Shannon eviscerated his witnesses, it became clear that Elizabeth was guilty–but was she guilty of the charges against her?

Shifting perspective between a handful of characters, Angie Kim provides a number of viable suspects who had opportunity and motive to commit the crime. The secrets and lies perpetuated by the primary characters began for each as a means of protection but become virtual prisons. How the characters grappled with the truth and resolved to handle their deception played significant roles in their ultimate fate.

Miracle Creek has the structure of a courtroom drama but offers a number of innovations, primarily the diversity of the characters. With the Yoos as Korean immigrants, the novel offers a window into Korean culture and the difficulty of managing a dual identity based on the author’s own experiences as an immigrant from Seoul. The book also considers the unique challenges and rewards of raising special needs children and provides a difficult and honest perspective.

While less central, Kim also introduces debate on the efficacy and legitimacy of alternative therapies. I can’t remember reading any other novel recently that so thoroughly describes the physical responses of characters, often as sensations that radiate throughout the body. I’m wondering if this is a commentary on the mind-body connection or a quirk of the author.

Although I enjoyed Miracle Creek, at times I found the writing cumbersome. Additionally, as a character, Young was central but in some ways underdeveloped, and some of her beliefs seem unrealistic. At the same time, it was a quick, engrossing read, and I welcomed the unusual context and diverse characters.

Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Laurentian Divide

Stonich, Sarah - Laurentian DivideLaurentian Divide

by Sarah Stonich

From the first page, Laurentian Divide was a delight to read. Immediately, I felt a connection to the town of Hatchet Inlet and the characters that weave in and out of each other’s lives in the small Minnesota town near the Canadian border. In the book, Sissy and widower Alpo, twenty years her senior, prepare for their upcoming wedding. The town needs a celebration after a tragedy the fall before that rocked the community. Tragedy threatens the town again when Rauri Paar, the last private landowner in the Laurentian Reserve, fails to make his annual appearance at the beginning of spring. Pete, Alpo’s son, a recovering alcoholic, navigates his own minefield trying to stay sober.

Stonich writes beautifully, and she expertly creates a millieu believable and sympathetic. With good-natured humor and an appreciation for the foibles of Hatchet Inlet’s residents, she compellingly sketches themes surrounding trust, secrets, and forgiveness. Sissy, who has always worked at her family’s diner, questions her calling and attacks the future with determined persistence. Alpo, who was exempt from the Vietnam War due to his employment in a vital war industry, struggles to justify his dispensation. Peter, who has left a trail of devastation in his wake, must learn to live in a society with constant temptation.

The Laurentian Reserve, a million acres of wilderness, and a site of peace and renewal, provides the backdrop to the story, and a history of forty-years of conflict over land use represents a microcosm of environmental debates, and I like to think comes down on the side of protecting the land for future generations. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the ubiquity of dogs and their presence as family members, exhibited most charmingly, by Jeff, Sissy’s dog, and in her mind, the most handsome man in town.

In Laurentian Divide, even the most peripheral characters matter, even if they don’t realize it, and are bound to the community. Their absence matters, and key events reverberate through the residents. Despite the challenges, they remain interconnected, and the novel concludes on a hopeful note.

When I was reading the book, it reminded me of Richard Russo, who also so skillfully renders small town living, and it wasn’t too surprising to me to later see that he had provided an endorsement for Laurentian Divide. It was truly a book I was sorry to finish. I didn’t want to leave the people of Hatchet Inlet.

Luckily for me, this is the second in a planned trilogy centered on the denizens of the area. I have not read the first, Vacationland, though I plan to, and I eagerly await the third.

Author’s Website

Thanks to Netgalley and the University of Minnesota Press for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Her Final Hour

Kovach, Carla - Her Final HourHer Final Hour

Gina Harte #2

by Carla Kovach

DI Gina Harte and her team investigate the murder of Melissa Sanderson, who seemingly had an ideal marriage, a perfect house, and a darling two-year-old daughter. At the same time, Ellie Redfern has returned to Cleevesford to confront the demons of her past. As these two cases converge, and Harte is attacked by an ominous man in a forensics suit and red mask, the investigative team wonders what is behind the veil of perfection portrayed by Darrel Sanderson, Melissa’s widow, and his friends.

This is the second book in the DI Gina Harte series, and the members of Harte’s team are the same, but it is not necessary to read The Next Girl to understand the plot. Gina is a determined, scrappy detective who was abused in a past relationship. I was thankful that her daughter, Hannah, was less present in this book because I found her annoying and unsympathetic in the previous entry to the series. When Melissa’s autopsy shows signs of past abuse, her history comes to the fore and provides even greater motivation for her to solve the case. Her co-workers, DCI Briggs, DS Wyre, DS Driscoll, and DS O’Connell receive little characterization.

The crimes themselves are creepy and somewhat intriguing, though what ties the cabal of friends surrounding the murder is not explained enough to fulfill my curiosity. I found the book an easy “clear the palate” read, but some aspects of the writing were not to my taste. For example, there are several sections with long lists of questions, and if you read my reviews, you know this is one of my biggest pet peeves. I also found that some of the writing was undeveloped with characteristics including not using contractions in dialogue when it would be appropriate, overlying on phrases like “how dare you!,” or having characters engage in knee-jerk reactions to anger or frustration with violence or thoughts of violence.

If you are looking for a quick, non-taxing read, Her Final Hour might be for you. Otherwise, there are more sophisticated options in the genre.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

What It’s Like to Be a Dog

Berns - What It's Like to Be a Dog.pngWhat It’s Like to Be a Dog and Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience

by Gregory Burns

After the mission to kill Osama bin Laden was made public, neuroscientist Gregory Berns thought about Cairo, the dog who rappelled with his handler from a helicopter into the desert compound in Pakistan. If a dog could be trained in that context, surely Berns could train dogs to enter an MRI machine for a scan. The Dog Project was born. Starting with his dog Callie and using a mock MRI tube and coils, he began training dogs. The dogs were not sedated or restrained and were given the respect according to human subjects–the right to refuse, which some did.

Working with Peter Cook and other colleagues, Berns developed innovative and well-designed studies that revealed aspects of the dog’s brain structure and provided insight into their mental processes. Investigating self-control, preferences, and even emotion recognition, over and over, Berns discovered that humans and dogs shared the same brain structures and that they functioned in the same way. Berns’ interest in dog neuroscience extended to other animals as well. He scanned the brains of sea lions, dolphins, and Tasmanian devils and the extinct Tasmanian Tiger (thylacine). The results Berns shares here provide insight not just into dog neurology, consciousness, and behavior, but into other animals as well, including human animals. We are much more similar than different, and, as Berns anticipated, the “inevitable” result of the studies is a necessary questioning of how we use and abuse animals and their habitats.

I loved What It’s Like to Be a Dog, thought I have to admit that this book appeals to my interests as a dog guardian, animal lover, and animal rights supporter. Even if you do not fall into all or even one of these categories, the book is worth reading. While I thought this might be a rather light-hearted summary of Bern’s research, I was proven wrong. I learned so much about brain structure and function across species. Though the concepts are complicated, Berns writes in an engaging and straightforward manner that make the scientific descriptions easy to follow. Berns summarizes his own research which is innovative and well-designed, and the book itself is well-researched, drawing on the most recent studies. While Berns is excellent recounting the science, he is at his best when describing the dogs who participated in the research. His love for them is clear, and there’s nothing I love more than someone who loves dogs.

Berns’ concludes that research has not yet show that animals are self-aware, but there is no question they are sentient, and he criticizes how we approach animals as property. His analysis only supports my personal beliefs, but this may be controversial for some readers who have a utilitarian approach to the use of animals in research and food production. Although this is definitely a science book, it is completely relatable, and more than once, I was brought to tears. A description of the last Tasmanian Tiger’s final days in an Australian zoo absolutely gutted me, and I had to skip a few paragraph when Berns recounts his experience at his medical school’s dog lab.

The book is illustrated with photographs of the MRI dogs in action as well as some of the brain scans, the former adorable and the latter intriguing. I did wish that there had been an diagram showing the regions of the brain since Berns often referred to different areas. With the title and cover image, I was primed for a book on dogs, so I was surprised to read about sea lions and marsupials, but I welcomed the perspective these studies provided.

Whether you love dogs, enjoy reading about cutting-edge science, or are an animal rights advocate, you should read What It’s Like to Be a Dog. You will learn as much about your own brain as about those of our animal relatives.

Thank you to Netgalley and Basic Books for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

What is your dog thinking? (YouTube)

Author Website

IMG_7305 (Edited)

Populace

Populace - A.M. WilsonPopulace

by A.M. Wilson

After a series of nuclear attacks that wiped out Washington DC, New York City, and Los Angeles, the New United States of America formed in Omaha, Nebraska. Roger Wilkins, President, is also CEO of the most powerful company, the Leviathan Corporation. They keep the populace compliant through a diet of synthetic drugs and fear, not to mention a chip implanted at the base of their neck that will explode if they leave the city. Most of the population lives in ghettos with their food and necessities provided by the government, but Tom Stout is an elite. He is one of the few real people who work in the Communications Department, and his status affords him an apartment overlooking the bread line–to remind him of his roots–and a beautiful, wealthy fiancee. A personal meeting with Wilkins himself elevates his ambition.

But in this cocoon of safety, a shattering act of violence propels Tom out of the city. Roger tasks him with finding terrorist and traitor Joe Ikowski, responsible for inventing a device that has killed thousands. With a band of Immortals, a highly trained team of elite soldiers, Tom journeys to underground caves in Kentucky. His quest takes him to the Arizona desert, Mexico, and the Rocky Mountains. Without synthetic drugs to dull his mind, he experiences emotions for the first time, developing friendships, testing loyalties, and questioning the authority of the government. During his trek across what was once America, Tom begins to learn the unthinkable truth of his country and the origin of his own identity. With its indictment of current policies, Populace stands as a cautionary tale, but it is also a rollicking read with interesting and unexpected turns.

What I liked best about the book was the story which captured my attention and appealed to my interest in dystopias and science fiction. It incorporates several common aspects of such work but combines them in novel ways. It was also interesting to see the “old” United States through the eyes of Tom, who yearned for it, and Mike, who had lived in it. These perspectives provide a lens for the readers to consider issues currently facing society–income inequality, hunger, and climate change, for example. Wilson incorporated some current political issues to humorous effect; in one scene, the Mexican government is worried about refugees and wants Leviathan to pay for a wall. More serious are the different ways that governments use to control the populace and maintain power despite a near-universal desire for freedom. The extent to which people have a choice in their subjugation is a question that lingers after the book ends.

A few facets of the book were problematic. I found a few inconsistencies in plot. Additionally, at times, the dialogue was awkward and stiff. One particular device reminded me so much of Matrix Reloaded that I found myself distracted. The biggest problem in the book, though, is the treatment of women. I could see an argument being made that in a hierarchical, highly controlled society, gender divisions would become more rigid, and in presenting gender in this way, the author is attacking such structures. However, I don’t think that’s what is happening here. For example, all the Immortals are men as are the dronewalker pilots. Including female soldiers and pilots would have enriched the book and promoted diversity. Likewise, in the Rabbit Hole, a brothel, the prostitutes, at least those mentioned, are all women adhering to an idealized type. To me, this represents a missed opportunity and decreased my overall enjoyment of the novel. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the novel. I did like it and would recommend it to others who appreciate dystopian fiction. I just think it had even more potential.

Thank you to Netgalley and A.M. Wilson for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Cassandra

The Cassandra by Sharma ShieldsThe Cassandra

by Sharma Shields

In 1944, Mildred Groves, Star Pupil (of six) at the Omak Secretarial School, becomes a secretary for Dr. Phillip Hall at the top-secret World War II facility Hanford in South Central Washington state. Her new job represents not just a chance to contribute to the war effort but also a way to escape her domineering mother and sister. But Mildred is not just an excellent employee–she possesses an unusual gift. She receives visions that foretell the future. As a child, her visions earned her the moniker “Mad Mildred,” and she learned to be silent and keep her premonitions secret. But with production of “the product” speeding up, Mildred has renewed visions of overwhelming death and destruction. She is no longer able to remain silent, yet no one believes her prognostications. Again, people see her as “Mad Mildred.” Still, her visions gain strength until she must act to stop them to save herself if not the world.

Unusual in its combination of historical fiction and fantasy, The Cassandra has a number of strengths. Before reading this book, I didn’t know about the Hartford facility, and here, it is realistically depicted, including the intensive secrecy, the racial segregation, the divisions based on gender, and the devastation to the community and the environment. The Cassandra also offers a rich palette of symbolism, using the wind, rivers, birds, and animals to convey messages of fear, punishment, and overwhelming emotion. Mildred in particular struggles against the expectations of gender and the power and violence embodied by men, at times resistant, at times embracing it.

An interesting character, Mildred begins the novel with wide-eyed, naive optimism, but as she learns more about the “product” and experiences more visions and the accompanying dismissal of them, she becomes cynical and isolated, mistrustful of even her closest friends. Her language takes on a harsher tone, and her lost innocence is reflective in her coarse words, including the integration of such terms as fuck, shit, and asshole. Her withdrawal becomes accentuated when she falls victim to violence and then perpetuates that violence on others and herself. Some of the other characters are more one-dimensional, especially the villains in the story, and I wish they’d have been developed more realistically, although others reveal unexpected depth and compassion.

When Mildred experiences her visions, she encounters shape-shifters and tricksters, and the language of the novel slides to metaphorical. At times, this works, but at times, the combination of historical fiction and fantasy have an uneasy alliance, and the book I think struggles to integrate them. Still, the visions are haunting, and in one in particular, from the point of view of a young girl, readers see them impact of the atomic bombs on the hibakusha, the Japanese survivors affected by radiation poisoning, in a harrowing way that will remain with me for a long time.

The Cassandra questions how women or disenfranchised can make a difference when their wisdom is ignored and challenges a particularly masculine relationship with the world. While it doesn’t provide answers, it offers a rich tapestry to consider. Fans of The Future Home of a Living God and Woman on the Edge of Time will be particularly pleased with this book as will readers of feminist fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley and Henry Holt & Company for an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author’s Website

Publisher’s Page

New Clone City

IMG_7532New Clone City

by Mike Hembry

New Clone City is a futuristic metropolis full of diverse characters and disincentive neighborhoods. Almost everyone has wetware and navigates through projections and virtual advertising, trying their best to avoid having psychotic episodes from the stimuli. With New Clone City lies Fuji City, housing the many refugees streaming into the city from war-torn areas.

Within this environment, we meet Jimmy, who is fond of alcohol and drugs but not so much of working, though is loved by his common-law wife, Julia, regardless. Hostile and aloof Claire works at a vegan health food store fronting as an eco-revolutionary collective. Among the transsexual and queer sex workers who frequent Charlie’s Garden, dominatrix Jeannie provides leadership to a well-organized community. And Al, agent of the state police, hates them all. The characters travel their own trajectories, at times intersecting, but ultimately following their own arcs against the treat of climate change, a burgeoning refugee crisis, and Al’s determination to destroy the diversity that gives New Clone City its flavor.

Mike Hembury presents a vivid depiction of the urban environment filled with unusual street names and unique stores, restaurants, and churches. It’s easy to believe, reading the book, that New Clone City is real, not the product of imagination. The themes of climate change, refugees, and state-sponsored terrorism are timely and important but here are not presented in preachy, dogmatic ways. And the primary characters were all diverse, not a straight, white male among them. Although it took me some time to get into the book and acclimate to the unique style and tone, I became very invested in the characters, particularly Jeannie.

Some aspects of the book that I didn’t like included a somewhat choppy way of writing, where most of the sentences are subject+verb without much variety. I also thought that some of the characters were inconsistent. For example, Claire, who when we first meet her is wearing a shirt condemning driving throws out an orange juice carton instead of recycling it. And at times, the dialogue is stilted and unnatural.

Towards the begging of the book, the “U,” New Clone City’s transportation system, offers myriad examples of technology and how the real, or “meatworld,” interface, including Claire’s virtual panthers who are visible to others jacked in. However, this integration disappears as the book progresses, and only Claire and her boyfriend Illya seem to connect to the virtual world. While this could be a function of different characters of different classes and their varying access to technology, it seems strange that in large crowd scenes, such as a riot precipitated by police during a peaceful demonstration, that no one has projections or is jacked in.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the book is that there is less resolution than I like when reading a novel. While the characters have come to a natural pause in their storylines, there was enough open-endedness that I felt unsettled. Hembury has said that he’s developing a sequel, so hopefully, the plot lines will be developed in the next novel in the series. I will definitely be reading it!

Thank you to NetGally and the Wild World for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.