Friday, May 2, 2014

Streets of Payne / Jeff Brackett

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction/Technothriller

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

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Perusing Jeff Brackett’s bio in the “About the Author” page in his book and on his website, you’ll find that besides writing he has a longtime interest in the martial arts and makes knives as a hobby. (These aren’t regular knives. Some might call them works of art.)

For more, visit Brackett’s website.


“Humanity is in the eye of the beholder.
But for street-smart detective Amber Payne, it's the eyes that aren't human. Cybernetic implants replaced the organics she lost in the line of duty, and their appearance often causes Amber to doubt her self-worth.
Rookie detective Kevin Glass is her partner. And though he may be new, Kevin's unparalleled skill as an elite cyber-surfer makes him an invaluable asset.

When Alta Corp contracts the two of them to solve a case of high stakes data theft, they will need every bit of skill, experience, and determination to succeed. For the more they investigate, the more it becomes evident that this case is much more than it appears, and its resolution may forever alter the world in which they live.”


Some of the qualities of the world Jeff Brackett created for this science fiction techno thriller would fit well in a dystopian novel, a different sci-fi subgenre. The first is a high crime rate which led me to believe that while the main characters had a reasonable quality of living, the run of the mill citizen might not. Corporations seem to be where most power resides with no apparent sign of government. Even law enforcement, the area where the protagonist Amber is employed, is privatized. I wouldn’t classify this book as dystopian because the technology and action overshadow whatever subtle political subtext I detected, another reader may see it differently.

For me, the fun part of the story was in the action. Amber and her work partner Kevin are hired to investigate a crime that, as they investigate, turns out to be something much different that it first appears. It raises questions of personal privacy (there’s another dystopian element) and explores the man/machine interface (in the future, how clear will the boundaries between the two be?) Plus, if you like futuristic shoot’em ups, there are a few of those, too.

Last, I’d be remiss not to mention the sense of humor that shows up in unexpected ways. My favorite example of this was Amber’s explanation of an expression she uses:

“I guess it’s time to get back on the cow that threw me.” Fischer raised his right eyebrow. “Excuse me?” “It’s an expression used by old-time cowboys,” Amber explained. “When they rode their cows, the cows sometimes got violent and threw their riders to the ground. Seems it was a frightening experience, and they held the belief that if you didn’t get back on the cow immediately, the trauma would prevent you from ever being able to ride again.”

I guess that’s mostly correct. Makes you wonder how much history we’ve learned is just a bit off, doesn’t it? A fun, potentially thought provoking read.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars


?wazithinkin said...

Nice review, BigAl. I happen to have this book in my TBR pile. Thanks for mentioning that Jeff Brackett is also a knife maker, I checked them out and hubby may end up getting on for Christmas. They are gorgeous works of art.

A Voracious Reader said...

I loved this one! Great review! And Jeff's love of knives really comes out in "Half Past Midnight." :)

EdwardLorn said...

Loved this one, as well. I hope he continues with the character. Helluva fun read.