Series: SINless #1
Genre: Science fiction
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: Out now
This edition: ARC, received from the publisher
Cover art: Cody Tilson
Street thug Riko has some serious issues — memories wiped, reputation tanked, girlfriend turned into a tech-fueled zombie. And the only people who can help are the mercenaries who think she screwed them over.
In an apathetic society devoid of ethics or regulation, where fusing tech and flesh can mean a killing edge or a killer conversion, a massive conspiracy is unfolding that will alter the course of the human condition forever. With corporate meatheads on her ass and a necro-tech blight between her and salvation, Riko is going to have to fight meaner, work smarter, and push harder than she’s ever had to. And that’s just to make it through the day.
This review was difficult to write, at first. I had so many enthusiastic feelings about this book, but none of them were the usual delighted nerdy flailing kind of feelings that normally accompany a book that gets me this excited. So I had to stop and really examine why. Turns out, Necrotech IS exactly the kind of book that ticks all my boxes. Just one thing was different, and that one thing is everything and nothing at the same time.
Riko is on a bloody, dangerous, nearly suicidal mission in this book. There’s no halfway in terms of the violence here – when it’s on, it is full-on. The same goes for Riko herself. She’s a woman up to her neck in that violence, and a lot of it’s her own doing. She’s every bit as rough, ready and dangerous as her environment, and she’s made herself that way in order to survive in it. There are absolutely no compromises or apologies for who or what she is – including being a woman. And that’s where I suspect this book will become “love it or hate it” for a lot of readers, particularly readers of a certain very privileged type. This woman carries weapons and knows how to use them. She also doesn’t turn off her sexuality to do her job or achieve her goals – and yet there’s not a hint of anything romantic about Riko. Her relationships are messy and complicated, yes, but for better or worse, they don’t stand in her way. This means she doesn’t spend a great deal of time being a sympathetic character, at least not in the usual “female protagonist” ways.
Riko has no time for your sentimental shit – and thank God, because taken as she is, she is EXACTLY the kind of protagonist we need. Does her story matter? Absolutely. It’s a gore-soaked mystery that I can’t wait to get to the bottom of, and its setting is all kinds of impressive in terms of futuristic worldbuilding. Does it matter that Riko is both female and unsympathetic? Yes.
Well, no. But yes, damn it, it does – precisely because it doesn’t matter. Or shouldn’t, at any rate.
Not long ago, I read and reviewed a book that blew me away, because it was an excellent example of everything good about epic fantasy, but for the one thing that truly made it stand out from the crowd: matriarchy. Women were front and centre, playing to their strengths, making no apologies for their weaknesses, and yet detracting nothing from how absorbing the story and their world was. That book was Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, and it’s the book I keep being reminded of when I think of Necrotech. Not because there are any genre similarities – the two books couldn’t be more different. But that strength of character in the protagonists is remarkable, even if only because it’s so rare when, in an ideal world, it wouldn’t be.
But it’s an ideal world that might exist one day, or at least be closer within reach, and it’s with books like this one that we’ll get to it. Does that sound hyperbolic? Maybe, to some. I’m betting that to a lot more, though, it sounds fucking awesome. To those readers, I say don’t miss out on this. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t – but you shouldn’t let it pass you by or be shouted down. Riko wouldn’t stand for that shit. Be like Riko!
(OK, maybe don’t be all the way like Riko. That woman is damaged. I mean, jeez. But you get the idea.)
So this is not my usual kind of review. And that’s totally fine by me, because this is not my usual kind of book. It is so much fucking better than ‘usual’. There’s no lily to gild here. Necrotech is awesome. Go and buy it. I’ll be over here, waiting for book two.