The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley.
The bad first: What a damn stupid title. There's practically nothing about it that has anything to do with the story except at some far remove. With nothing but the title and the cover to go by, I expected something with alien tech, for heaven's sake.
So, with that out of the way, let's get to what this novel ACTUALLY is.
It's a heavily political techno-thriller set in New Cairo in a society filled with plentiful artificial organ replacements that reminded me as a cross between Known Space Niven and pre-Empire Asimov while sticking entirely to the city in modern Egypt. To some of you out there, that might just tell you everything you ought to know or expect. Spoilers are hereby delivered.
For everyone else, it's really an ideologue-ish and politically heavy tale interspersed with action by city security forces and action by would-be revolutionaries and action by a lone hacker pulling 007 duty to clear her name of assumed murder charges that are, you might have guessed it, fallout from another political ploy. Zala, being the closest character resembling an actual hero in the tale, was unfortunately rather lifeless and failed to put her hooks in me early, despite her hackerish tendencies, but she got a lot more interesting with time.
I'm personally not a gung-ho rabidfan of techothrillers of any stripe, but I've read my fair share and I can sometimes get into them, but it's fairly hit-or-miss with me. I never place them in a category of must read fanatical goodness. Men and women with guns and holding political prisoners seems rather... um... dull. But that's what happens here.
We get the idea drilled into us that no one is truly bad and everyone has really good reasons for doing what they all do. Neither side is blameless, but neither side is truly bad or wrong. I don't mind that. What I do mind is that it sometimes feels heavy-handed and pretty obvious after a while. What saves the novel is the escalation of events in the last third and the explosive ending.
Remember what I said about Asimov? Yeah, only the butler DID do it. Kinda obvious from the start, and I kept praying and praying it might turn out to be some other megavillain or a dream sequence or some OTHER stupid reveal. Still, the ending was easily the best part of the novel, so I won't go poo-pooing it more than I have already. Zala turned into an all right character by the end. Aunt Nancy, on the other hand, was someone I wanted to bitch-slap for being so damn predictable.
Technothriller fans out there might enjoy this novel more than me, and I wish them all the best luck. In the future, I'd rather like to see more vibrant characters with much better hooks. Something juicy to propel my Care Factor through all the bang bang action sequences. I swear, this probably would have been better as a made for tv miniseries rather than a novel. I don't mind using my imagination, but there's only so much bang bang I can take on a page before my eyes go glassy.
Still, it wasn't a bad novel, and the author's love of both politics and programming shine through a clear as day. If I hadn't been reading this for a good story, and merely for edification or an imaginative exercise, I think the book would rather shine. Unfortunately, I was looking to be entertained with some good SF, not an action novel that teaches me to look at things from all different points of view, telling me to no pre-judge anyone, with just a few SF elements.
Well, like I said, some people will like the method and subgenre a lot more than me. :)
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