What Are We Reading?: Escapology and Virology, by Ren Warom
4.5/5 Glowing Ethereal Sea Critters
Give me the short version:
I was after a cyberpunk breath of fresh air and got a compression hose of awesomeness up the nose
I picked up on Ren Warom's work via Steve Sted's review of Coil on Kendall Reviews (because reviewers are the best way to find a great new read).
To aficionados of Neuromancer, the world of Escapology and its sequel Virology hits all the classic tropes, and has everything a body could want from cyberpunk: a vertically stratified society, evil corporations and the greedy in power, a downtrodden VR-talented protagonist, gangs, rampant social inequality and environmental collapse, the dichotomy between the world of the flesh and the mind; so I won't pick into the nitty gritty here, as I'd love you to enjoy it for yourself.
The characters are fresh and engaging enough to dive right in, which is great because both books are heavily embedded in the culture and context of their world.
The language is quick, humorous and sharp, and the story will absolutely not wait for you to catch up on the lingo. I personally adore this, but recognize it can be a challenge for readers less familiar with the genre.
I find one of the greatest appeals in a dystopian future needs to be how even with the grime and rampant poverty, some part of you still desperately wishes yourself there because it is more real than reality, more beautiful. The consequences of action there are bolder and more bloody. Ms Warom has of course achieved this with the AVIs: gorgeous virtual sea creatures that are secret avatars of your inner self, and yet also so much more.
Out of the two I did enjoy Escapology slightly more than Virology, which at times was paced a little too much like a chase scene. Rating the first 5 stars and the second 4, I've split the difference overall for 4.5 stars.
"She beams, all those tiny teeth too dangerous for words, and snags a beer, twisting off the top with one precise hand movement. He imagines it's his dick, and goes lightheaded. Has to dig his nails into his palm to snap out of it, before meeting her eyes, wary as a cornered fox.
In his drunken, unmedicated state Mim's gaze is vivisection at a glance, excising the cool he had at Keen Machine and exposing his barely hidden continued attraction to her, soft and vulnerable as a torso full of viscera. He sneers at her - an old defence mechanism and quite useless. All but kicks the wall when he sees the gleam in her eyes, that magpie-spotting-a-helpless-chick look."