Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Synthetic Dreams by Kim Knox

TITLE: Synthetic Dreams
AUTHOR: Kim Knox
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 34k)
GENRE: Cyberpunk romance
COST: $3.59

In the world of creating illegal glamour, Vyn is one of the best. She has to be. Scarred as a child, she was forced to wear glamours in order to fit in with her upper crust surroundings. All of that changed when she was caught selling her illegal wares and shipped off to a district known for its hackers and threats. But now, she’s created the most valuable piece of tech there is. Everybody will want a piece of her if they ever find out, including the high-level security guy who almost catches her when she’s testing it…

If there’s one thing this author loves to do, it’s create dense new worlds for a reader to explore. The problem is, her stories aren’t always long enough to really take full advantage of them.

This one is no exception. The reader is thrown headlong into a world where the virtual is as real as reality. Vyn is testing her newest tech, something called a simulacrum, to see whether it can pass inspection. She runs into a security guy who introduces himself as Paul, but when it becomes obvious he’s starting to see through her mask, she decides to leave. She needs a diversion, and thinking quickly, kisses the guy. She never expects him to kiss her back, but she manages to get out with her mask intact. Back in the real world, she ventures out at dusk for some coffee, but after surviving the dangerous trip back to her apartment, she finds Paul in her apartment, announcing he knows full well who and what she is. Seconds later, he tells her the only way she’s going to survive the night is by trusting him. She has no choice but to do so when security storms her apartment and destroys everything non-organic.

Thus begins a night of harrowing action, as Paul sucks Vyn into a world more complex than she’d ever imagined. I can’t explain it. By the time I was comfortable enough with the societal constructs and technology the author had created, the story was two-thirds done, and I’m pretty sure that if I tried to explain it now, I’d just make a mess of it. It’s cyberpunk, though, which should give the reader a starting point. From the start, Paul is practically perfect in a lethal kind of way, which turns out to be his major failing as an interesting character. By the time he starts showing chinks in his armor, most of the story is gone. He’s enigmatic to a flaw, and because of that, I never really bought into his feelings in the last couple chapters.

Vyn is a little bit better, but her characterization suffers in a different way. She’s thrust into the action so early, and the pace is so unrelenting, there’s no real chance to discover what she might be like on a normal basis. I certainly didn’t get a lot of what Paul claimed to know. I had to take his word for it rather than see or experience it for myself. This, too, worked to distance me from the romance.

But there’s enough fascinating action going on that I was okay with not being that invested in the romance. I needed to see it play out, especially once I was really clued into how it all worked. The story hurtles along at a breathtaking speed, leaving little room for anything but strapping in. As a reader, I just had to find a way to survive (much like Vyn with Paul’s driving). And even with my reservations about the romantic angle, I’m likely to be there the next time this author has a new title. She’s one of the few I’ve read who consistently come up with complex, interesting worlds. That’s worth it.


8/10 – Dense world building really holds this back because there’s just so much going on that it forces the reader to slow down and sometimes even backtrack to catch it all


6/10 – Too enigmatic to be truly sympathetic


7/10 – So much action goes on, there’s little opportunity to learn of these qualities Paul is intrigued by

Entertainment value

7/10 – Getting a firm handle of the world beneath my belt slowed down getting into the tight action of this

World building

8/10 – It needed better descriptions earlier in the story to make it easier to get sucked into, but still love the nihilism of it all



No comments: