Today’s Novel review is Hard-Boiled Wonderland by Chris Morton. You can buy a copy here. This is another book review in collaboration with the folks behind Unreal Magazine, whose novella I reviewed a few weeks ago, which you can read here. This is probably one of the more entertaining and intriguing stories I’ve read in a while so let’s see what we have in store.
From zero to hero
Maggie Flycatcher had the most boring job in the world: watching lemon trees for days on end. However, he is invited to participate in a test flight of a top secret spaceship with a rag tag group of individuals each with their own secrets, histories, and motives. But when the robotic assistants end up malfunctioning and attempt to kill Flycatcher, he gets wrapped in a secret assassination plot he cannot escape from.
This is such a unique story that I managed to finish it within a week. It’s science fiction with a mix of thriller that blends nicely. Think Top Gun meets Blade Runner. It’s more character focused than others of its kind which usually dwell on the futuristic technology and the planetary advancement of space colonization, this story focuses on the relationship between the pilots. We hardly know of the government, the state of the Earth, the planets, but we don’t necessarily need to. All we know is that Alpha Planets exist, strange rocks that have been inhabited by interstellar expansion, and technology has advanced far enough that space travel is viable.
The characters all have a unique personality. The love triangle between Japanese woman Kitty and black politician “K” drives the core of the story. The mystery behind the virtulators and the advanced robots, as well as who is plotting their deaths. Each of them has a story to tell and plenty of backstory, which is unique for a large cast like this. The attention to detail for each of them and how often they’re featured is impressive. It wasn’t like one character just “exists.” The author really goes out of their way to tell everyone’s story.
Flycatcher is entertaining to follow. He starts off joining an expedition to a planet full of beautiful women, only to land on an island with nothing like that and ends up leaving with his group in disappointment. Flycatcher is really bad at speaking to women like Kitty and K. He’s so awkward that he tries his hardest not to come across as creepy, but it’s clear he’s never spoken to a woman before. I mean, staring at lemon trees all day will do that I suppose.
The lemon tree backstory gives off a dystopian vibe too. Having such boring, monotinous work, virtual reality that controls everyone’s lives, killer robots, and people with too much to hide. It’s not the traditional “evil dictator hitler expy rules the world and puts citizens into hard oppression” but more “capitalism in space.” I kinda prefer those types of stories a bit more. Yes, Hitler was horrible and we have neo-nazis running all over, but it’s been so done to death that it’s become cliche. I want a more subtle take on my dystopia that’s not 1984, Hunger Games, Divergent, and so many others that have been blatant copycats. This is such a breath of fresh air for me.
I would definitely give this a read. It’s a very fresh take on sci-fi and contains plenty of mystery, intrigue, and thriller-type drama that isn’t as promoted as much as the usual content of science fiction. I would strongly recommend this book looking for anyone who wants a character-focused story with plenty of action and drama that doesn’t get tiring.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.