Thursday, 3 December 2015

False Idols

In the year 2047 neural implants have given a small slice of the population superhuman abilities. Are these Aeons brilliant humanitarians dedicated to saving civilization, or venal psychopaths bent on its destruction? When Sarah Fenton is recruited out of her orphanage into a mysterious government program, this question becomes her mission. Answering it incorrectly could spell the end of the human race. As famine and religious strife threaten to push the nation into a three-way civil war, Sarah’s time runs short. Will she be wily enough to choose correctly and save the world?

I'll fess up early. I was given a free copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

False Idols is a lot more sci-fi than my usual reads, but I was intrigued by the blurb and wasn't let down. I struggled with the book a bit at first. Setting up the sci-fi world and dystopian future, the book gets bogged down in details and lacks a "voice". With the heavy description and almost emotionless description of events I was a little scpetical. But the human story told in a cold tech (virtual) reality becomes a nice juxtaposition. The vivid imagery in the virtual reality, aka the ether, is wonderful, and the visual representation of hacking absolutely brilliant. People fight groups of giant beasts signifying a security programme, break in through firewalls of stone, strip away their bodies to leave behind no trace as they sneak past guardians. Being a bit of a geek, I love that kind of stuff!

I was expecting the titular "Aeons", the superhackers who live in their own hedonistic online worlds to be a little more ambiguous based on the book blurb, but it's pretty obvious throughout that they are no such thing. Chief Aeon Laura is probably my favourite character, a badass Svengali-type character set on dominating what's left of the world. Perhaps because I didn't really care for the lazy trust fund kid Nick I actually found her manipulation of him another point in her favour!

On the other side is protagonist Sarah. Plucked from an orphanage and trained as an "anti-Aeon" hacker, I didn't really feel her. Her stroppy teenager moments weren't exactly endearing and her Tragic Backstory™ seems a rushed and clumsy attempt to try and make her likable. I didn't buy Sarah and Nick as a couple either. Not for one second. And the presence of Michael acts as a needless third angle in a triangle that's both unnecessary and undermines the urgency of the plot. Seriously, we see about two dates between Sarah and Nick during which time they seem more brother and sister than would-be lovers. Maybe some stuff got cut in the edit, but this was unusually my least favourite aspect of the story. Perhaps that's why I found myself looking forward to reading the Aeon chapters and being on the side of the bad guys!

I didn't realise that this book was part of a series, so the abrupt ending seems to come out of nowhere which really bothers me! I always think books in a series should be able to stand alone, but False Idols seems to go from full throttle to cliffhanger in about two chapters without satisfactory closure to everything that's come before. That said, I'm hooked! Though I'm not sure I should be rooting for the villains ...

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