A rendition of Frankenstein set in 2165, Roque’s debut boils over with rogue scientists and megalomaniacs scheming world domination.
New spy on the block Jia Chen is a Chinese physicist turned psychiatrist when she receives her big break. As the new liaison to Wang Robotics, Jia reports for her first day in the lab only to discover brilliant doctor Lanning Balcourt dying on the floor having been mauled by a lab animal. A surgical team executes Balcourt’s final wish to transplant his central nervous system into a host body. But when Balcourt awakens, Jia realizes this medical advance may not be for the benefit of mankind. Meanwhile, billionaire Augustus Wang garners fame and influence for his robotic designs, and his ambitions may forever alter the future of his beloved China. The novel’s setting is an example of the author’s fertile imagination; public transport is envisioned as tubes which scuttle commuters from one end of the country to the other. Yet the story struggles with pacing and character development. In a politically complex and multiethnic world, the author fills in background details in lengthy chunks that break up the novel’s flow; long explanations of Latin sayings and Chinese proverbs hinder the narrative flow. At times, dialogue meanders for over 20 lines, diluting readers’ sense of wonder. Academic exposition results in flat characters who simply move along in the landscape. As the protagonist, Jia should be a dynamic force within the prose, making decisions that impact the story and her own psyche; instead, she remains passive, relaying the action around her without the pathos required for an audience to invest in her battle. Ultimately, she is an enigma, often behaving in a manner hardly reflective of a government agent.
Despite an interesting premise and rich detail, the novel struggles to create compelling characters whose personal goals clearly motivate their actions.