Happy New Year, dear readers! *Flings handfuls of glitter into the air*
So my first finished book of the year was no gentle ‘stretch before you exercise’ experience. Quite the opposite. But then, I expected that much from this book. I expected a lot from it, and I was not disappointed…
SINless #2 | Science fiction | Published by Angry Robot | Out now | Cover art by Cody Tilson
Being a mercenary isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially when Riko’s hard-won reputation has taken a hard dive into totally screwed. Now she’s fair game for every Tom, Dick and Blow looking to score some cred.
In this city, credibility means everything – there’s no room for excuses. She still doesn’t know what she did to mess up so badly, and chasing every gone-cold lead is only making it worse. Without help and losing ground fast, Riko has a choice: break every rule of the street on her search for answers … or die trying.
So this book was one I’d been waiting for ever since I finished the first SINless novel, though I knew a bit more about what to expect this time around. That doesn’t mean I was completely ready for it – though that’s certainly not to say I didn’t relish it. Riko was a breath of unapologetic, flawed, foul-mouthed air in Necrotech. With Nanoshock, as is the general rule with sequels, everything goes bigger because who the hell’s going to tell Riko to go home?
As is also the case, though, that’s where the risk versus reward factor comes in. As I said in my review of Necrotech, Riko (and her life) is a hard pill to swallow and these stories don’t offer you a glass of water. K.C. Alexander has spoken openly about the rage and frustration that fueled these books, and she’s made no effort to hide it on the page either. What that means for the reader – assuming that, like me, you came back for more – is that you have to be ready for everything to go bigger, or you can go home.
Where do I stand now? Well, obviously I didn’t go home. And if you know anything about my ‘positivity first’ attitude to writing reviews, you can probably guess that I enjoyed Nanoshock. I absolutely appreciated the hell out of it, that’s true. But I’m still wondering, days after I finished reading it, if ‘enjoyed’ is really the right word…?
Riko is not here to entertain anyone. She’s here to get a job done, and she’s (still) not here to make friends while she does it. That can indeed be a hard pill to swallow, but I am 100% here for her kind of story being told. I came to reviewing/blogging in earnest with plenty of rage and frustration of my own, and in the last couple of years especially, that’s only gotten worse instead of better. Books like these, with a protagonist so absolutely unapologetic, is a sort of catharsis that you come to need when you walk around every day with that sort of anger riding you. You can’t actually go around kicking people’s teeth in, so why not let Riko do it for you? Her writer asks the question (see my interview at the link), and I’ll be honest – the only answer I have is a gleeful, grateful, ‘why not, indeed?’.
The key here, however, and the thing that saves this book from becoming one-note even with the furious choir singing full-on, is that while Riko is unapologetic, she is not, in her heart, unrepentant. She made a colossal mistake somewhere, somehow, to end up where she is now, and what’s driving her is a need to understand what she did, why she did it, and to find a way to make it right. The kind of person she is doesn’t allow her to wail and cry about it – but what her second outing shows us (and I promise I won’t get spoilery here) is that nobody can run on pure rage forever. Sometimes you need a breather, and while Riko has rage enough for a whole squad, she’s got to stop and try to figure her internal shit out eventually. Nanoshock gives us a glimpse at something more hopeful for Riko, between all the teeth being kicked in. The trouble is, in her world, you rarely get more than a glimpse at something better. That plays into everything that will probably make these books difficult for people to read, but it’s a fresh note here that I absolutely appreciate.
Really, though? Riko does not, in fact, have any time to be soft. Remember, I said Nanoshock goes bigger…
… And holy shit, does it ever. You want spectacle, noise, fire and blood and no-holds-barred violent flair? Step right up. Just remember to put your helmet on first. I don’t say “holy shit” for just any old action-fest, folks. Judging from what we get here, K.C. Alexander takes “go big or go home” pretty damned seriously – and it’s clear she’s not about to let anybody tell her to go home.
I am right here for that. Front row, with my feet up. Maybe not entirely comfortable, but I’ll be damned if I’m letting anybody steal my seat. The trick is not to get blood on your popcorn, innit.
Deep breaths. Round three?
Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The author and I have been personally acquainted online for some time.