Well, that’s it, my friends. This is the last book in the Toccata System trilogy and I am very sad to see this series come to a close, but it was such a nice, quick, little series to race through, too. “Prodigal Storm” introduces us to another of STASIS’ orphans, and this one had to—she thinks—murder the love of her life in order to free both her and her sister from their murderous AI of a mother. In the final book, LJ and Conor have to work together to keep Conor’s father from bringing about the enslavement of all the AI’s once again. But can his wounded son take down his own father? Can Conor and LJ work together given what LJ did to him? Such delicious interpersonal angst awaits in this final book! But unlike the previous two books, “Prodigal Storm” is not a novella, it is technically a full length novel and, while the title may give you the impression it is, it’s also NOT a retelling or reimagining of a classic novel like the other two books were. It has some flavors of Treasure Island, but it’s not really “based” on that classic like the other books were. I kind of missed the retelling aspect though, as Swed has done those so wonderfully in the previous books, but I really enjoyed the interpersonal conflict of this book regardless.
“The Tribulations of August Barton” is a sweet, kind of coming-of-age novella. Except it aims to show how the college experience has helped Augie find his voice, and with the help of his ex-prostitute grandma, Gertie, get a hold of his anxiety during a period of change. Augie may not have ventured very far to go to college (hey I didn’t, either) but it’s not about the distance. It’s about putting yourself in new situations and meeting new people, broadening your horizons in every sense of the word, and Augie definitely does that! Everything from his first time getting drunk, to falling in love, to even streaking in freezing temperatures, August finds his footing more than most in college. But throughout all of Augie’s adventures, there is this undercurrent of appreciating your elders, and spending time and enjoying the elderly while we have access to them that I found to be quite beautiful.
“The First Conception” is a very hard book to read for obvious and not so obvious reasons. The obvious: right in the synopsis we know that this is a revenge story told from the perspective of the female survivor—she was raped and abused sexually and physically her whole childhood and well into her adult years. This “inspired” her to take away the ability to conceive for the whole world. Now, I love a good revenge plot where the MC is less than “good”, especially when it’s over something as heinous as abusing a child so repeatedly. Also, there are your trigger warnings for rape, graphic violence against both women and men, sexual assault against children, spousal abuse, and if topics of infertility are sensitive for you, then this may not be a good fit. Granted, some of these warnings make sense for the genre—it’s billed as a thriller, after all—and while that’s fine, I think this book got to the point of being gratuitous.
I love true crime, and I read and watch a lot of documentaries about different serial killers; some who have been caught and others who took their secrets to their graves. It’s often easy to forget that True Crime is Non-Fiction—that you are reading about someone, or multiple someone’s, very personal tragedy. You get that filter of time where something horrific has occurred a hundred years ago, and it’s easy to forget that these were real people who had something horrendous happen to them. That isn’t the case with “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”. McNamara never lets you forget that this man, this serial rapist and murderer, is a real person, a real terror that did his prowling up and down California for decades. The people he tormented are still alive, some of them anyway, or their families remain to carry the burden of not having answers as to why, why, why? Until recently. McNamara was obsessive about tracking down clues, weeding through the red herrings of this long standing crime. She didn’t care who caught this man, as long as someone did. She was tenacious and dogged about following leads and working with investigators to follow up on things she found peculiar, but weren’t explored at the time of the crime. Unfortunately, she died half way through writing the book, which is bad for a number of reasons.
AndroDigm Park is a virtual-cyber park where the park and its occupants are all androids, very sophisticated and life-like, but still androids. In this theme park created by the world’s leading android and bio-cybernetic research groups, humans have their dreams analyzed, and that dictates the kind of quest they will go on—from the safety of a secure room while the sleeping participant controls a human replicant. They will feel what the replicant experiences, but since they can’t die, they are allowed to follow their every fantasy. Sounds a bit idyllic, sure, but that means you just KNOW there’s something sinister lurking in the background: who controls the park? What are they really after? Again, sounds really interesting, but all of that only starts coming into play well after the 50% mark of the book, and then we only see and interact with AndroDigm Park for maybe 15%. So what’s the rest of the book, you may ask? It’s groundwork for the main characters.
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