After accepting a Faustian bargain to be transformed into a full-body cyborg serving a nonhuman race, heroine Anomie realizes she’s part of a conspiracy deeper than she can imagine.
Miller’s tricky blend of cyberpunk, intrigue, action, racial politics and morality begins with heroine Anomie, a black woman in future San Francisco, lying mangled in a hospital room. A shady firm called Silk Road approaches her with a repugnant but evidently well-known offer: In exchange for a payout in millions of euros, she will allow her wrecked body to be replaced by a full, superstrong cybernetic prosthesis known as a “frend”—Finite Robotics Enhanced Neurosensory Development. Miller describes the long, grueling surgical process without gore but with just enough detail to get the reader’s (presumably organic) teeth grinding. Thus reborn, Anomie discovers she has leased herself to be a veritable plaything of the lumen, a noncorporeal race of software-based intelligence—think Skynet from the Terminator movies—inhabiting the bodies of various robots who have a yen for devising hideous ordeals. Apparently, if it weren’t for the physically toughened frends to amuse the powerful lumen, their whims would viciously turn on the entire human race. Anomie comes to realize that she has actually been carefully inserted into this nightmarish servitude and also in a mission to infiltrate the lumen and exploit their weaknesses. But how? And by whom? Canny readers may too easily decode the surface plot as Robert Ludlum stuff blended with Ray Kurzweil’s vision of Homo sapiens combining with machines. A big reveal at the end becomes painfully obvious midway through—Bourne Identity Theft, one might say. Nevertheless, Miller’s skillful economy of language and penchant for playing the cards close to the vest—or chest plate—works to his advantage as the tale picks up momentum/mayhem and puts an intriguing, nonstereotypical lead character through pitfalls and deadly perils of parahumanity. Ghost in the Shell fans will have a blast.
A lean, well-oiled narrative speeds this multilayered sci-fi story through occasionally obvious circuitry.