In 2040, a former convict with an implant to stave off violent impulses finds himself in the midst of a plan to take down a corporate empire in Lutz’s (Book Hunter, 2015, etc.) sci-fi thriller.
It’s been a year since Andre Cross left prison early after agreeing to get a device implanted in his neck that counters his destructive urges by inducing euphoria. He works at a farm that produces Neura, a drug that’s part of a health plan for wealthy citizens in a place called Upper Brulle. Andre’s maintenance job pays him in credits and doses of Neura, but because the implant prevents him from taking the drug, he sells it legally for even more credits. He’s hoping to earn enough to buy a ticket to the utopian city of Anchora. And there’s a chance he could expedite his departure: his preferred customer, Finn, suggests that Andre could swipe a large haul of Neura for a bulk sale. Andre’s subsequent attempt results in his capture by members of the Heart of Grace, a cult that opposes Neura’s owner and creator, a company called Titan. The cultists force Andre to help them infect Upper Brulleans with zilla, a potentially lethal Neura/painkiller combo. The ex-con draws on whatever he can, including his newfound feelings for a female PrePAC (android) named Mo Da, to ensure he lives to see Anchora. Lutz’s story tackles the common sci-fi theme of a robot experiencing emotions. But Andre’s apparent tenderness toward Mo Da is equally complex; he also struggles to subvert the “dark thing” that drives him to violence, even as the implant practically turns him into a zombie. His back story, which involves a not-so-nice older brother, is dramatic and laced with mystery. Characters range from pleasantly ambiguous to dangerously blunt; for example, Kade, cult leader Elron’s right-hand man, doesn’t even try to hide his animosity toward Andre. Technology circa 2040 is chic but believable, particularly Andre’s harness for handling maintenance, which is constructed out of robotic arms. This tech is the subject of one of many visually enticing illustrations, courtesy of Lutz and debut illustrator Gray.
A multilayered protagonist and stellar setting help guide this sci-fi narrative to an unforgettable coda.