I kind of love, and miss, the days when super heroes had to operate in the shadows. Before the big Marvel movies where everyone knows the super powered vigilante and they are this organized group that is basically just the world police. I like the idea of those super heroes like Spiderman, Batman, or hell, even the Incredibles, where the vigilantes aren’t allowed to operate openly, where they have to hide who they are, and their presence isn’t always welcomed by the police. Alter Ego has a lot of those themes, plus so, so much more! In this fast paced vigilante story, we have secret identities and organizations, generations of heroes, and a well-funded terrorist group opposite our heroes. Coupled with the powers and the gadgets, you have this struggle to balance the person along with the hero, of what it means to put on these different masks, and trying to figure out who the REAL person is, free of the secret identities, and what it means to be a hero; who exactly are the white hats when you operate outside of the law? For as awesome as the abilities were, it was those very real interpersonal struggles that this story presented that I gravitated toward the most.
“Chipless” is a futuristic dystopian where an event (known as the Pulse) has disrupted society. In response, a group of scientists have made a chip that helps regulate the population’s health, happiness, and even what they see, smell, and taste as all part of a very advanced augmented reality simulator. The chip’s—which is implanted in all citizens of The City at one year of age—primary function is to keep the populace from ever knowing that their world is dying, depleted of its natural resources. In exchange for all the advanced technology and not having to worry about their bodies, the land has been sucked dry. The chip keeps the citizens from knowing the true state of the world and therefore freaking out, or rebelling. Something like that, anyway. It honestly got a little confusing because it’s not like everyone lives in The City, there seem to be a lot of people without a chip (like Amber) so the idea of why The City needed this mind control, what the Pulse did or was, or why Kal was so important, got seriously diminished by the fact that having a chip was just so… benign and there were already so many people living free of The City’s clutches.
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 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.
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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