My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Necrotech is one of those titles that left me feeling particularly divisive. K.C. Alexander included a great number of things that I enjoyed, but there were also just enough missteps to disappoint.
Perhaps my greatest problem with this book was going into it without the explicit understanding that this is the first book in a series with an overarching plot line. Alexander presents a story where the lead character, Riko, is on a mission to discover what happened to her and her girlfriend during a period of several months that she cannot recall. In the book's opening moments, Riko wakes up in a lab in time to discover her cybernetically augmented girlfriend going haywire and turning into a savage monster on a bloody tear. The mystery behind what these two women are doing in this lab, and why they were even there in the first place, becomes the crux of Riko's motivation. Unfortunately, by the time we reach the end of the book's 400+ pages there's been zero resolution. Riko does get moved into a new and interesting place, which is a plus, but the story itself lacks any sense of closure. The characters, and readers, are left in largely the same place they found themselves at the outset, with the central mystery unresolved. We had some neat developments and a few interesting scenarios along the way, but the trip itself ultimately felt largely pointless and this left me disappointed.
On the bright side, Riko is a cool heroine, and I have a soft-spot for foul-mouthed, temperamental, tough women. Riko is a particular type of mercenary known as a splatter specialist, and with her gruff, violent, no-prisoners attitude, and big bionic arm heroines don't get much tougher.
Necrotech is a violent book, with nearly non-stop action. At a certain point, though, the action does get to be a bit too much and a bit too tedious. Alexander doesn't slow down enough to really allow her character much in the way of introspection or growth, although there are some nice moments between Riko and the other characters. Her flirtatious side carries a definite charm, which made virtually any scene between her and a corporate secretary named Hope fun and engaging. I could have gone for a few more of those moments, and Riko becomes much more interesting when she's placed in situations far removed from her usual elements.
Make no mistake, Riko's usual elements are gritty and violent. Alexander does a great job building the world her characters inhabit, and I liked the concept of 'necrotech,' a computer virus that hijacks people's implants and turns them into the cyberpunk equivalent of a zombie, quite a lot. It's a scary, gruesome, and highly intriguing idea, and one that I look forward to seeing the author develop in future books.
While Necrotech was not the stand-alone title I was hoping for, and leaves far too many plot threads dangling and unresolved to placate me, I am still invested enough in this world, and in K.C. Alexander as a storyteller, to see what comes up next.
[Note: I received an advanced review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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