Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: violence against children, plague, medical experimentation, violence
Set in South Asia, this cyberpunk science fiction dystopia has everything: a ruthless technocratic government, a deadly plague, mechanical augmentations, mechs, a shiny chrome utopia for the upper class, crowded slums for everyone else, a splinter group of revolutionaries, and hackers working from the inside.
Told in crisp, matter-of-fact prose by complex characters, this science fiction debut is not one to miss.
Ashiva is a gem of a protagonist. She’s clever and stubborn in the best ways. One thing that really stood out to me was how none of the main characters had any interest in saving the world around them, which for me, added a layer of realism. Ashiva wants to protect her sister, Taru. Riz-Ali wants to find out what the government is really up to learn more about his family and their activities. These internal character drivers contrasted nicely against the action set pieces, featuring city-obliterating mechs and daring escapes.
Elements of the world-building really reminded me of Midgar from Final Fantasy VII Remake, in which the elite live separately from everyone else, and the government will stop at nothing to further its own selfish goals. As a group, the antagonistic government is a little one dimensional, but taken individually, wow did I gasp at some of the reveals.
My only gripe was that the pacing felt a little uneven. The book starts off slowly, and our main characters don’t meet until past the halfway point. All that groundwork is important, but I wonder if there were other way to integrate it.
Overall, a cyberpunk climate fiction that literally has anything you want from the subgenre.