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.
The vast majority of the book is world building for Shelby (the main character), telling the reader how he got to where he is and the world he occupies: namely one where sex and free love is pushed as a way to hide the world’s unemployment issues. If you are having a lot of great sex with any number of consensual partners, you won’t notice that your job has been replaced by a robot, supposedly. I think that was part of my problem, though. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of a society where sex is normalized and casual, because I do believe it should be. But this came across as more of a trope because the book is mostly women (outside of the main character) and every single one of those women (whether human or android) almost immediately wants to sleep with Shelby. Sex is casual for everyone but him, which makes it feel like these women are just overly thirsty for Shelby, and I found that problematic. They felt like sex caricatures and nothing more.
The story and the writing is very straight forward, though. This is a neon-noir crime procedural with drug lords, dirty cops, and a tortured lead who is on a mission to avenge his slain wife and child. It’s raw, it’s dirty, and the book uses the mature language and violence those kinds of scenarios call for. It fits with the story but if you are sensitive to that, just be aware of it ahead of time—this does include rape as well. And while straight forward can be nice, it also meant that some of the characters were flat; there wasn’t a lot of emoting going on, which made it hard to connect to them, or even feel for the characters and whatever plight they were in at times.
The concept for this book is really interesting, however I just wish we had gotten more of what the books’ synopsis says we are supposed to get: more time at this virtual fantasy park, more time figuring out the culprits behind the CEO’s gruesome murder. But Shelby doesn’t do a lot of that detective work, he just kind of gets lucky with how certain things fall in his lap, or who comes to him with information. So much of the book is showcasing this new hedonistic world and the drug case Shelby is working in the first chapter (that also introduces the reader to Scarlet) instead of this crazy new theme park for the super-rich. It was a bit of a letdown because I kept waiting for this thing to show up and then it was over so fast, and the case itself gets wrapped up so neatly… All that grit you get from the first few chapters vanishes by the end, which is too bad. Even though it took this book awhile to get going, those first few world building chapters set such a great tone that I was a little sad that it was no longer present toward the end. All in all, the concept for this not-so-far-future sci-fi thriller is awesome! But the execution just wasn’t doing it for me with the flat characters and so little of the actual theme park itself, so this was a 3 star read for me. But thanks to the author for sending me a copy for an honest review!
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