Non-Compliance: The Sector an undiscovered gem by Paige Daniels
I picked this ebook up in trade from the author at GenCon. Those of you who have been following me know that I’m a harsh grader. It isn’t that I don’t believe in the grade A but so few works really deserve it. I can’t remember ever giving an indie book outside of my press an A+. I have many more books needing a review so I don’t get the pleasure of grabbing the next one in the series immediately. I’ll have to wait for a lull in my schedule.
This book has landed on my top 100. If you are a fan of dystopia, cyberpunk, or even dark sci-fi, run out and buy this book today. You won’t get a less ambiguous recommendation from me.
Shea Kelly lives in the non-compliance sector, a reservation where people who won’t have their bodies implanted with tracking and behavior mod chips are sent. She is a hacker, a martial artist and one of the snarkiest heroines I’ve had the good fortune to read. She teams with another hacker to make life in the NCS a little easier and at the same time make a buck for themselves.
When their hacks are discovered by the mysterious and deadly Boss of the NCS, they figure life is over. Instead he offers them a job. On the inside of his world they find that the Boss generally seems to be working for the common good. He even lets Shea work on her secret project of bucking the government on the side. Life is good for awhile until a new crime boss, with some powerful backing, threatens to bring chaos to the NCS. Shea’s new family must jump into the fire to keep things from blowing up.
I don’t even know where to start. Excellent characters. Each has their own motivations, their own voice and keeps true to them throughout the book. And there aren’t too many to keep track of. The main character is a woman of strength. This doesn’t mean she can’t be beaten down. It just means she knows how to dust herself off and move forward if she falls down, and woe becomes the moron, male or female, that underestimates her or her capabilities.
The plot was well woven and crafted. The dilemma wasn’t sprung on you all at once but evolved over time toward the crisis that had to be dealt with.
Miss Daniels’ earth had a depth and richness that comes from careful thought. There is more sickness in the NCS. The doctors are leftovers from the “real” world. Getting goods in the reservation isn’t trivial even for the very powerful. Power isn’t a given at any point in the sector. Orphans run in packs like the gangs in many metro areas of today. These are detailed but not in an infodump sort of fashion but rather shown through the actions of characters.
There is a romance of sorts that is held at bay by both parties as they feel the other doesn’t want it. Exceptionally well written without getting in the way of the main plot.
I feel like I’m hunting for the black cat in the coal cellar at midnight using only a match to find something wrong.
I recall one scene that seemed like either had been splicing two scenes or something cut out. One sentence ended and the next one didn’t make sense at all. I read it over four times and just went on. I didn’t seem to miss anything but it was there.
I found the defenses the baddies had in place somewhat laughable. It was a nice stage for our heroine but seemed a bit weak.
There were at least two threads that weren’t wrapped up by the climax of the book. Note that even in real life, cops rarely know all of the answers when they wrap up a murder case, even an obvious one. An example is the heroine noted that the climax was too neat (deus ex machina) on at least two occasions and then dropped it and never went back to it.
This review is by Thomas Gondolfi, Author of Toy Wars Series the CorpGov Chronicle and numerous pieces of short fiction in the genres of science fiction and cyberpunk. He is also the owner of TANSTAAFL Press (How do you like your SciFi? ). For more bio information go to www.tanstaaflpress.com/authors/biographies/tomgondolfi/