Review: Inscape by Louise Carey

Rating: 7/10

Synopsis

Warning: use of this gate will take you outside of the InTech corporate zone. Different community guidelines may apply, and you may be asked to sign a separate end-user license agreement. Do you wish to continue?

Tanta has trained all her young life for this. Her very first mission is a code red: to take her team into the unaffiliated zone just outside InTech’s borders and retrieve a stolen hard drive. It should have been quick and simple, but a surprise attack kills two of her colleagues and Tanta barely makes it home alive.

Determined to prove herself and partnered with a colleague whose past is a mystery even to himself, Tanta’s investigation uncovers a sinister conspiracy that makes her question her own loyalties and the motives of everyone she used to trust.

Review

I received a copy of this book from Gollancz in return for a review; I’d like to thank them for sending it over and note that it in no way affected my honest review.

Inscape is an exciting, horrifyingly possible scifi-thriller that dives deep into future technology and the ramifications of its advancement, packaged in a high-octane and action-packed novel that’d be fit for the big screen; it’s a cyberpunk mash-up of undercover agents, stolen files, pay-walled reality and very likely technology.

The plot follows Tanta, a CorpWard for InTech, and the search for top-secret stolen data, which starts with a drop-point and a mysterious, seemingly super-advanced agent that mows down her unit and leaves them utterly defeated. This search then takes her deep behind enemy lines, into the other half of the city controlled by Thoughtfront – InTech’s rival. Parts of this really intrigued me, what with the fact that it seems most humans are plugged into MbOS which are wired directly into the brain – forget smartphones, this stuff is overlaid into your consciousness. The problems with such tech are cleverly explored with computer viruses which now attack the inside of the user’s brain. Hand-to-hand fights are controlled by pointers from the overlay, and it all goes wrong when there’s EMPs afoot.

We follow both Tanta, and Cole, her genius partner who has lost a lot of memory due to an accident with tech that wipes them; they balance each other out in voice and action. Due to her training, Tanta comes off as a bit bland, and robotic … at least where InTech is concerned. She’s the perfect enhanced soldier: loyal to a fault, powerful, dangerous, and skilled. I don’t mean to say it’s bland by writing, but what I mean is that Carey has quite nicely portrayed her training and history in the way that she speaks, acts and is unquestioning in what she must do, up to a point. All for InTech. She’s as loyal as a machine. Whereas Cole has a little bit more humanity in him. He’s a genius hacker and programmer but he’s got a lot of heart and won’t see his comrades get hurt.

At times, because of the choice of tense and POV I felt a little far away from the characters and as such I didn’t get to make the connection with them that I usually would. Which is just down to personal taste and in no way reflects the clear, concise, and intelligent prose that is on offer here. There’s snippets of the future tense which were jarring to me and took me out of the swing of things. And the way characters interacted were not necessarily natural in my opinion, but I suppose that’s as natural as they could be since everyone interacts through technology hard-wired into their brains and no doubt has some sway on their cognition.

Overall, it’s a nice debut and an exciting read but I didn’t entirely gel with the characters and was unable to immerse myself in the plot. Though, what gripped me and pulled me through was the original tech and the highly believable science behind it.

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