Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane
|Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane
|Category: Science Fiction
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: A pacy and exciting sci fi thriller riffing on the currently fashionable youth cult of identity and the pace of technology. Unsettling and prescient.
|Date: December 2023
|Publisher: Insync Books
|External links: Author's website
The message turned up out of nowhere. Military-grade encryption. It took Ronan four minutes to decode it. A party invite. A chance meeting. A cry for help. Ronan is dragged into the depths of cyber-hell to save his love.
Ronan's not entirely sure why he decides to go to the party but his interest is piqued by the way it arrived. And it seems like a good opportunity to get out of his room and away from the online activities he makes a living at. So he makes his way there, dodging the buses that make up most of the traffic and watching the local energy storage indicator lights. Should be enough power. Hopefully.
The party doesn't turn out so well. It's full of spoiled youngsters brandishing their carefully curated selves like weapons, throwing hyperbolic insults at any minor breach of current etiquette or, in the absence of any such breaches, constructing them through bad faith anyway. Ronan really isn't into the whole anything I don't like is fash vibe.... but, there's a girl (there's always a girl). Justine doesn't seem like the others and she is fascinating. There's an air about her - she seems world weary yet vibrant. When she offers Ronan some drugs, he accepts and they begin to make out. Suddenly, Justine's mood completely changes and she runs out straight into the path of a bus.
Following the ambulance to the hospital, Ronan meets Justine's parents and discovers that Justine has brain implants. Ostensibly to balance her moods and her mental wellbeing, but they also allow her parents to monitor their daughter and warn them if she deteriorates to a point where she'll need help. The doctors say that the implants have been hacked and the hackers can kill Justine at any time. And for the first time in his life, Ronan has a chivalrous impulse and volunteers to mount a rescue, using his superior hacking skills. But to do it, he must himself get the implants....
I do enjoy a new offering by Mark Lingane so I was happy to pick up Of Ghosts & Broken Promises to review. But I honestly didn't expect it to be quite as enjoyable as it was. I absolutely loved it. On the surface, you've got a traditional narrative of boy meets girl, girl gets into danger, boy risks everything in a desperate attempt to rescue girl. You've got some fantastic atmospheric scene-setting of a near future world where lives are lived even more online than they are now and carefully curated online identities mean more to people than their embodied lives do, and AI makes it easy. And you've got a breathless virtual battle where the hero tries to outwit the villain with as much pace and violence and twists and turns as you could hope for.
But underneath all that, you've got some sharp critique and satire of the nature of identity as it's currently practised today. Lingane speaks wistfully of an emotional disconnect that had seen many young lives extinguished throughchasing broken ideologies of self and it really does give you pause for thought. There's a sadness in this book underpinning the sci-fi thriller narrative. And the two come together perfectly. A forlorn hope is still hope, right?
If Of Ghosts & Promises sounds up your alley and you'd like to investigate more of Lingane's work, we can also recommend Galaxy by Mark Lingane.
Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane is in the Top Ten Self-Published Books 2023.
You can read more book reviews or buy Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane at Amazon.com.
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