Title: Shadow of a Dead Star
Author: Michael Shean
Pages: Ebook; 228
Release Date: June 23, 2011
Intended Reading Group:
Cyberpunk, Crime Thriller
5 Keys to My Heart
Seattle, 2078. The future hasn't been kind to the spirit of humanity; commercial obsession and technological fetishism rules the day, religion and belief has died screaming in the fires of war, and what remains is moral decrepitude. Cities of glass and exotic metals reach toward the poisoned sky, and every night sees a host of sins played out under glittering neon. Life in the future is hard on the soul.
As an agent of the Industrial Security Bureau, Thomas Walken knows that better than anyone. His job is to keep the worst kind of black-market technology out of the hands of citizens, technology born out of the shadowy nation nicknamed Wonderland. But the kind of fantasies that come out of that place aren't for the good people of the world, only nightmares made from sequenced proteins and printed circuits. Wonderland technology is like black magic in the flesh.
Walken's newest assignment, intercepting a trio of girls-turned-sex dolls smuggled into the country from Wonderland, starts out simply. But when the girls are hijacked from federal custody and Walken gives chase, he finds a trail of bodies in their wake as he tries to recover them. And the mysteries don't stop there; before he's through Walken will find himself confronted with not only the truth behind Wonderland but the truth behind the rest of his sick and cynical world. The revelations he pursues will answer every question that the troubled lawman has ever had about himself and the world he lives in - but his mind and soul may not survive it.
If you're a fan of detective stories, but feel like every single one is the same as the one before, welcome to your answer. I'm not sure whether to call Shadow of a Dead Star cyberpunk, tech noir, or a crime thriller. What I can say without a doubt, is that it's wonderfully original! Ready to step out of that mundane pile of mass market crime novels? Grab a copy of Michael Shean's book.
Thomas Walken, our main character, isn't your typical lawman. His world is dark, gritty, and full of some of the most horrific things he's ever seen. Despite everything that he's been through, Walken definitely isn't a hardened man. Deep down inside he is constantly questioning everything. Especially how he seems to fit into the mess he's found himself in now. What I loved about his character is that he is so believable. Caring and afraid on the inside, but doing his best to put forward a manly bravado on the outside. In a town like his, being soft just might get you killed.
Which brings me to my next point. The world, the city, that Michael Shean builds for his characters is absolutely fantastic. Equal parts terrifying, dark, and seedy, this is a world that is falling apart at the seams. Organized crime runs rampant. The city has pulled in on itself to protect what's left, leaving the outer parts crawling with filth and violence. Add into this a set of new technology that has the power to turn people into mindless drones, and it literally feels like hell on earth. While reading I felt every emotion that Walken felt, heightened by the world around him. Michael Shean builds a world that brims with the possibility of actually occurring, and soon. It's that very fact that allowed me to immerse myself so fully.
Reading Shadow of a Dead Star was like getting into a very fast car. I was terrified the entire time, but elated at finding out what would happen next. Every twist and turn brought something new and interesting to mull over, and with Walken at the wheel I was never sure where we would end up next. Although the pace is lightning fast, it flows beautifully. Michael Shean's writing is wonderfully descriptive and gripping. It was like I was right there, in the scenes. It's no surprise that I devoured this entire book from start to finish, without a single break.
Final verdict? Shadow of a Dead Star was something different and refreshing. It pulled out emotions long forgotten in reading piles of similar books, and reminded me of why it's important to take a chance on something new every now and then. Before this I'd never read a book in the cyberpunk genre, and I thought that all crime thrillers were filled with mundane characters and plots. How very wrong I was. If you're looking for something exciting, something dark and fantastic, look no further than this book. Strap yourself in tight. You're in for quite a ride.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.