Rusted Synapse by Elwood Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a solid cyberpunk story starring a jaded cyborg waiting on her inevitable blue screen who is recruited by Mr Faustus (Yes, even the MC noted the significance of the name) for a daring, off book, snatch and grab. Added to this team is another soldier/paladin on overwatch, a cartel smuggler for logistics and a tech wiz wonderkid for counter-e. The team dynamics get off to a rough start, as the cartel’s man was responsible for the MC’s original dilapidated condition (aka ripping off arms and legs before smashing the batteries). The character growth primarily comes from within the team as they learn to depend on each other when things go south … and a few poignant personal issues that point to deeper philosophical questions that make you go hmmm (or you can ignore if that is not your thing). In short … I thought ALL of the cast of characters were very well done and I connected with each in some way that made the story a lot more fun that I expected.
The world building was also top shelf … especially the tech (speaking as a professional techie). It all felt plausible and real … so much so that I found myself reading straight through to the other side of midnight (making it tough to get up for work the next day). I really enjoyed some of the concepts that were developed … such as AI vs Sentient Daemons, Full body prosthetics vs body cloning … and my personal favorite … combat synchronization! Then stir in a pandemic (a flesh rotting disease euphemistically known as “Rust”) to get the appropriate dystopian feel expected in punk and the result is simply fantastic. Just in case some of the jargon loses you, there is a glossary in the back to bring you up to speed. The story itself is pretty standard and told well, despite the expected tropes, and with a surprise ending that left me wanting more.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.