In Diogenes’ sci-fi debut, a military drone pilot steps into a dystopian world to lead a murder investigation and clash with renegade robots.
On a casual weekend with potential love interest Anna, military agent Ray Alexander has to put himself back into work mode when robots arrive that have been reprogrammed to attack Anna and her uncle Cal. Before Ray has a chance to determine the robots’ specific target, he’s nearly killed by swarmers—small flying automatons that successfully murdered another drone pilot. Ray looks into identifying a person who fled the scene of the robot attack and is soon faced with more trouble when Anna disappears. The author permeates his story with delectable sci-fi bytes, like a peculiar time convention called “qhours,” each comprised of 10 90-second minutes, and Ray’s Panviewer headgear that allows for a panoramic “fullview.” The book further boasts stellar action, particularly the multiple swarmer assaults, as well as tech humor, including crash-landed, lucky-to-be-alive passengers complaining that they can’t access social networking; even Ray is upset that he has no time to peruse his backlog of emails. There’s a robust backdrop of inharmonious systems of government—the Constitutional Republic, for which Ray works, is set against the anti-freedom United Christian States and the Caliphate. Yet the novel’s most notable feature is its broad, fertile language; readers may want a dictionary handy, since uncommon words—“moue” and “pellucid,” for instance—appear in liberal doses. But the vocabulary, while certainly intelligent, occasionally has a dulling effect, as when Ray uses an aurally harsh word like “pulchritudinous” to compliment Anna’s beauty or in the frequent sex scenes between Anna and Ray (as well as Ray and fellow pilot Zinnia), which feature somewhat clinical descriptions: Ray “skillfully palpated all the plicae of her pudenda.” Their physical encounters have the same cold, detached feel as the virtual alternative. Still, it’s captivating following Ray’s exploits—he gets help from an old lover while finding a new lover and looking for his current lover—all the way to an ending that’s fearlessly unreserved.
Delivers sci-fi action while maintaining a highbrow, character-driven narrative.