After reading Smoke and Stone I quickly bought a bunch of Fletcher’s other work and started to read through them.
Wow, this one can be brutal and dark. This won’t be for people who don’t want to read about violence, especially to children, as that’s a central plot point that comes up again and again in this one. At points, it got a bit much for me but I won’t hold it against the book, it definitely evoked strong feelings at the right times.
This is a world that’s based in our near-future, and a world where people’s brains and personalities can be uploaded into various machines and programming. It’s been discovered that human minds are more complex and more efficient than an AI could ever be, and there’s a high demand for human-powered super-soldiers that inhabit non-human bodies and can wreak havoc on their human soldier counterparts.
Because of the high demand for human minds, and the low amount of people who are willing to potentially live on forever as a computer – fucked up people start savaging innocents to get what they need. Children are sought after because of their aptitude for adapting to their new lives. The idea is if you get to a human mind young enough, they will treat slaughtering thousands of people like a video game rather than reality. One of the main characters, Griffin, is a young man trying to find these black market slaughterhouses and bring them to an end. We also get to see the mastermind behind these houses of horrors…. and we get to see into several minds that have been removed from their bodies, altered, and put back into machinery and programming. We get to see it all in this book and it’s both fascinating and morbid as fuck. I needed to read a comedy after this one because, man, to get the brain scanned most efficiently you remove the head from the body… but they do this to kids who are still alive and conscious.
I had a bit of trouble connecting with a few of the characters, but I’m not sure that was the point for the villains in this book. The bad guys were pretty fucked up, but also fascinating enough for their chapters to breeze by. The characters that had been removed from their bodies were probably some of the most interesting and different sorts of characters that I’ve read in a long, long time. One, in particular, a young girl only given the name 88, is an autistic girl searching for her mother and it’s a heartbreaking perspective to read about.
The writing was great, the dialogue flowed naturally, the plot was tightly written and always engaging. The pacing was also superb and I flew through this one very quickly considering the limited spare time I’ve had recently. This has much more of a sci-fi feel to it than a fantasy (imho), but I think if you’ve enjoyed Fletcher’s stuff in the past you won’t be disappointed with this one.
TLDR: A dark as fuck cyberpunk/scifi/post apocalyptic feel to it set in the near future. Human minds can be ‘scanned’ into computers and their bodies disposed of, both legally and illegally. Grim, brutal, engaging, well written and edited.
- Plot: 12.5/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 13.5/15
- Pacing: 13.5/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 85/100 or 4.5/5 on Goodreads