Nanoshock, the second in K.C. Alexander's SINless series, finds foul-mouthed Riko on the outs with both her corporate sponsor and her street-level gang of killers, her credibility shattered (likely beyond repair) for the murder of her teammate and lover, and an enemy operating in the shadows with the express purpose of killing her.
Alexander kicks things off in grand fashion with what might be the best opening line of 2017, and perhaps ever, with Riko musing, “You haven’t lived until you’ve fisted a nun under the cheap light of a neon Jesus.” It's the kind of wonderfully sacrilegious moment that makes my heart flutter, and lets readers know right off the bat what kind of book they're in store for. Yes, Nanoshock is irreverent, highly sexualized, and packed to the rim with over-the-top violence. Riko's particular brand of murder has her placed as a splatter specialist, the kind of job description that lets you know there won't be any clean, quiet kills to come. The action here is big and loud, much like Riko's mouth.
Frankly, though, Riko's mouth wears thin after a while. She's antisocial, presents more than her fair share of psychological and emotional disorders, makes a number of rash (and oftentimes poor) decisions, and if she's not busy killing would-be allies she's going out of her way to alienate everyone she comes into contact with in the most vulgar terms she can manage. I don't need my antiheroes to be all soft and cuddly, but Riko's shtick gets awfully tiresome awfully quick. While Alexander gives us a few moments of insight, digging beneath her character's rock-hard hide to show flashes of her softer side, they're few and far between. Most of the attention is on Riko being the biggest, the baddest, and the most hot-headed, hurting everyone she comes into contact with. She's unsympathetic to the max, and I found myself wondering why anybody in her world wants anything at all to do with her.
The attitude that defines and encapsulates Riko makes the book a bit of a slog to get through, and that's even before we get to the muddled narrative. Although the plot is fairly one-note, there's a load of back-and-forth violence to muddy the waters and give it the appearance of being more complex than it actually is.
As with Necrotech, solid answers to the Why of it all are sparse, but the climax is a well constructed and violent tour-de-force. In addition to staging some terrific action sequences and moments of wonderful gruesomeness (the infectious cybernetic blight of necrotech itself is a marvelous invention, and Alexander gives us plenty of gory details about it over these two novels, I'm still left wanting more), the author has constructed a beautifully dreary cyberpunk world. The dark and grimy streets Riko inhabits are well realized, the city itself so heavily polluted post-climate change that sunlight can't make it through the ever-present smog. In fact, it's a setting that is a perfect metaphor for Riko herself. Personally, I wouldn't mind a little bit more light getting through come book number three.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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