by Rosie Record
Suncoast Publishing

"So eventually, she dared to ask what they couldn't even think: What's on the other side?"

Ghost in the Shell meets the Millennium series in this quintessentially American cyberpunk thriller. Fiona Tronick is a Controller, a street operative of The Agency—a covert, decentralized power challenging the more overt, authoritative Governance. These two forces butt agendas within two major domains of the walled-up California-Annex. The iconic wall means little to the thoroughly conditioned PW1.6 generation, raised amidst a jungle of vegetation-decked skyscrapers gleaming from Francisco in the north to flooded-out Xīn SD in the south.

Like our increasingly social-media-dominated world, the Annex is bombarded by false information via "neural-dynamic subliminal messaging" that keeps citizens distracted and subdued. Most of the populace is blissfully high on shine or addicted to technology and porn, driven by the incessant N-sub messages that Tron avoids by blaring music through her beloved low-tech earbuds. But as civil unrest starts to simmer throughout the Annex, she is offered information that contradicts her employer's agenda. She discovers that The Agency's lies run deeper than she'd ever imagined and pays a steep price for her independence and all too real human feelings. Reinforced by her unrelenting curiosity about what exists beyond the Annex wall, she is a force of nature when the predestined clash of revolutionary freethinkers and Governance Enforcers unfolds.

Record's gritty debut novel opens with a whirlwind of sensory impressions that feel momentarily confusing. Now and then, the story arc is enveloped in a fog of rough sex and appalling violence, yet Record's stellar writing and excellent character development penetrate and illuminate these diversions. The high-concept tale will play out vividly in readers' minds, begging for a screenplay adaptation because Tron's world is easily imaginable, a dystopian near-future that America, in particular, may be headed toward. If so, hopefully imperfect but savvy women like Mira Killian, Lisbeth Salander, and Fiona Tronick are fighting for the right side.

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