Title: Addict (The Cassie Tam Files: Book One)
Author: Matt Doyle
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 149 Pages
Category: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
At a Glance: By far, exploring the world was the most entertaining for me. That being said, there was a lot of backstory and info dump, and I was a bit bogged down by the pacing.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options….
For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.
When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.
Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.
Review: This story is a blend of my two favorite genres, scifi and crime fiction, but it reads as if those elements were two separate stories: the urban science fiction thriller and the who-done-it. Consequently, the worldbuilding was pretty intense. Cyperpunky while also having a teensy bit of a noir feel, it didn’t quite strike me as Blade Runner—it was more urban—but it was close.
In the future, people trade drugs for virtual reality time (which also basically requires drugs to experience full immersion). There’s the usual mob mentality, and impoverished people committing petty crime in our setting, consistent with noir, and also some sweet techy gear.
People wear suits of armor, which can turn them into mechanical animals—it brings the idea of being a furry to a whole other level—and Cassie, our protagonist and private detective, has a pet robo-bird named Bert, a mechanical gargoyle that protects her and the house. Bert’s tech is really quite fascinating because he seems sentient, and he consequently provides much comedic relief. I wish I had known a bit more how he worked, but the surprises were worth it.
We get to the meat of our story when Cassie has a visitor from the damsel-in-distress, Lori Redwood, whose brother is found dead, needle in hand, but Lori claims he didn’t commit suicide. The plot elements around the murder of Lori’s brother were fairly simple and, honestly, not the story’s most winning aspects, but they were palatable.
By far, exploring the world was the most entertaining for me. That being said, there was a lot of backstory and info dump, and I was a bit bogged down by the pacing. My favorite parts were the crystalline moments when the action, science fiction, and mystery elements locked into a vivid mental picture. I also appreciated Cassie’s hard edges. She was a bad-ass protagonist, and I wouldn’t mind reading more stories with her in them.
Our love story with the damsel-in-distress was lacking, but I didn’t really need it to get me through. However, because the romance wasn’t my main focus, the end dragged during the wrap-up of that part of the plot. All in all, the mecha-furries were cool, Bert the robo-bird was cool, and I would give this protagonist another chance. I liked Addict, but it was kinda slow.
You can buy Addict here: