By Matt Hill
Paperback, 444 pages
2016, Angry Robot
The year is 2025. Sol is a mechanic in Manchester who steals cars to repurpose them to his customer’s specifications or sell them for parts. But when his partner steals a luxury car and Sol finds a woman with three arms who was made to another customer’s specifications, he realizes he’s in way over his head. As Sol and the three armed woman run from her traffickers, Sol learns about her past and soon gives up all he has to help her.
I have really, really mixed feelings about this book. Through about the first half to two-thirds of the book, I was really into it. Hill created a gritty, futuristic, semi-apocalyptic Manchester where things we take for granted (working vehicles, internet, phones, food, jobs) are a hot commodity and life is tough for all but the richest. There’s also a group of people who modify humans and mix them with machines to create a new breed of people modded to the wishes of the client.
As a character, I could take or leave Sol. Actually, the only character I was really interested in throughout the book was Y, the three armed woman. She had her mind wiped when she was abducted and modded into a fighting machine with three arms and no voice. I wanted to know more about her past and I wanted to know more about the people that designed her.
This book posed the question – could our society become one where human trafficking evolves into modifying the captured people into android-hybrids and selling them fully customized like you would a computer or a phone? (A scary thought, if you ask me, because I’d like to say this would never happen but….) Sol explores this question somewhat with his own feelings and his quest to help Y discover her past and destroy her makers.
Sadly, as the two of them delved further into their adventure and the book headed towards its conclusion, it lost me. As the action progressed I began to lose the imagery and the plot. I felt lost and I know I was having a hard time picturing what Hill was trying to convey. I had no idea where Sol and Y were at the end, and in reading the back of the book again, I just caught the word ‘trans-dimensional.’ That sheds a little light on my confusion – somehow they must have travelled between dimensions, but I honestly have no clue how and that just leaves me with more questions about the world building.
As I neared the conclusion of the book I seriously lost interest and I suspect this only added to my confusion about what was actually going on. I couldn’t follow the exposition properly and I just wanted the book to be over. I even took a couple days off from it to clear my head with some middle-grade.
Overall, I can’t say I would really recommend this book, but perhaps the subject matter was over my head? That being said, I would give Hill another chance, because I did like his writing style, even if he lost me at the end. And I will give it an A+ in the cover design department – I can’t stop staring at this book, even now.