A teenage genius and his bodyguard uncover unpleasant corporate secrets and face a potentially otherworldly threat in this near-future sci-fi thriller.
New Arcadia is a failing town-sized oil rig in the Canadian Maritimes, recently purchased by Lynch Ltd. Rumors abound about the community’s future, and in the center of this turmoil is thrust Go Jung-Hwa, a skilled fighter and bodyguard for the sex workers’ union. The heir to the Lynch empire, 15-year-old genius Joel, has received death threats that seem to come from the future, and his elderly, ruthless father, Zachariah, believes that only Hwa can protect him. Poor and suffering from a congenital disorder that has stained her skin and given her epilepsy, Hwa has never received the augments or implants that most people have—which means that she can’t be hacked. But that doesn’t mean she and Joel can’t be stalked by an invisible serial killer who targets both them and the sex workers Hwa used to guard. We don’t learn much about the world outside of New Arcadia, but the microcosm we do experience—a single-industry town dependent on the continued need for fossil fuels, where corporations act like governments and nearly everyone is some form of cyborg—is intriguing and feels reasonably grounded in potential future trends. Ashby (iD, 2013, etc.) hints at the more outré, time-travel elements of the plot early on, but they still seem almost grafted on to the more realistic aspects of the story. They detract from the book's hard-edged authenticity and ultimately undercut a major theme: Hwa overcoming her hatred of and shame at her physical appearance. There’s also a killing that occurs midway through the book that ought to have major repercussions for Hwa but is apparently swept under the rug.
Begins with vivid characters and solid worldbuilding bones but doesn’t entirely hang together.