Review: Revision by Andrea Phillips

Revision

 

Genre: Science fiction
Publisher: Fireside Fiction Company
Publication date: May 5th 2015
This edition: eARC
Formats: Print, ebook

Notes: This copy was received from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Synopsis:

Mira is a trust fund baby playing at making it on her own as a Brooklyn barista. When Benji, her tech startup boyfriend, dumps her out of the blue, she decides a little revenge vandalism is in order. Mira updates his entry on Verity, Benji’s Wikipedia-style news aggregator, to say the two have become engaged. Hours later, he shows up at her place with an engagement ring. Chalk it up to coincidence, right?

Soon after, Benji’s long-vanished co-founder Chandra shows up asking for Mira’s help. She claims Verity can nudge unlikely events into really happening — even change someone’s mind. And Chandra insists that Verity — and Mira’s newly minted fiance — can’t be trusted.

The more I think about this story, the more I realise it’s much more clever than I first thought. It’s got a bit of a mash-up of story elements going on, but rather than the result being something that might have a narrow appeal, it manages to be impressively accessible. On the surface, this is a sci-fi story with thriller elements. Look twice, and it’s something more character-driven that might appeal to fans of urban fantasy. Look deeper again, and this is a freshly topical look at the state of today’s technology-driven society, and a cautionary tale of its dangerous side.

And its protagonist is engagingly flawed. So much so, in fact, that I’m still thinking about her days after I finished this book. That’s a tick in the “job well done” column right there.

At first, Mira caught my interest because her actions in the opening scenes, immediately following her surprise dumping by Benji, were understandable, however questionable. She’s left without any answers regarding the sudden breakup, and as people are wont to do in such a situation, she gets angry. And oh look, she has access to his social media…

These actions are the requisite pebble that starts the landslide, but as I kept reading I found my opinion of Mira changing. What she did, she did on a self-righteously angry whim. What she goes on to do speaks more of someone who sorely needs a lesson in a) thinking before she acts, and b) growing up a little more. She’s faced with just such a lesson, and in a way she absolutely, finally can’t ignore, before the end – and I realised how rare it actually is for me to find myself agreeing with a protagonist’s own comeuppance rather than rooting for her to even the score.

*Side-eye to internet trolls*

Like I said, this is very character-driven. What’s most notable is that it’s entirely possible you’re not going to like Mira very much. At least until the end – and I won’t go too far in that direction because Spoilers, but trust me, her turnaround is a sharp one that manages to crank up the pace on the story AND dial up the empathy afresh.

Though all of this character focus is not to say that Revision lacks spectacle. It’s very smartly-written when you come at it from that sci-fi/thriller angle as well, which I loved. Mira is no Natasha Romanoff, but for all of her flaws she’s a young woman with her heart firmly in the right place, and that translates to some pretty fierce determination once she finally sets herself on a clear path. And as for the payoff… Okay, again I must stop at the Spoiler Barrier, but let’s just say “explosive” is not as hyperbolic as it sounds in this case…

If I’m going to highlight any flaws (or possibly just nitpicks) with this book, I’d say that the relationship between Mira and Benji troubled me a bit. I realise that it may have been intentionally set up this way, but the whole doormat-to-wipe-my-feet-on aspect of how Benji treats Mira, generally speaking, did not push the good buttons for me. Now I admit quite freely that this is a personal misgiving and not an objective one – the nature of their relationship is important to Mira’s character arc – but, there it is. It’s not something I hold against the writer by any means, but as something that struck a bit of a sour note, it stood out for me.

On that note, and in the interest of plucking something positive out of my own criticisms, I’ve got to hand it to Fireside for their handling of the publishing work here. The finished version of this book (their first published novel, hooray!) will contain Content Notes, which I understand is going to be a standard feature with their publications from here on out. If you’re not sure what a Content Note is, it’s basically a disclaimer of sorts to inform readers that there might be trigger-y content in the book. It’s not as formal as a rating on a movie, from what I understand, but the effort to inform readers of such content before they commit to reading is thoughtful enough that I’ve got to applaud it, and I certainly hope it catches on.

So! As debut novels go, I’m calling this one a hit all round. I will definitely be on the lookout for future work from Andrea, and Revision has also made a Fireside fan out of me. Well done, everybody!

 

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