Glitch Rain by Alex Livingston
Publisher: Apex Book Company | Release Date: April 17, 2016 | Pages: 148
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ll always have a soft spot for Cyberpunk. Give me cool future tech, hackers taking down the system, rainy streets, and I’m happy as a rig ninja with a fresh laptop. So, when Apex Book Company put out a call for reviewers to dig through their back catalog I jumped at the chance to check out Glitch Rain by Alex Livingston. And I’m glad I did. This fast-paced, modern update to the genre dazzles with its use of today’s technology while at the same time paying respect to the legends of Cyberpunk.
For me Cyberpunk has always been about trends in technology, what a future might look like if we follow those trends, and predicting what people might do with this technology. William Gibson’s Neuromancer focuses on artificial intelligence and the internet way before those things were common. Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash upped the ante by showing how someone could be infected with a computer virus. In Glitch Rain, Livingston posits the dangers of metadata, technological waste, and living in a world where it is almost impossible to hide from the eyes of the internet. These authors play with the positives and negatives of technology, warning us that as helpful as they might be, they can still be dangerous.
The biggest strength of Glitch Rain is its characters. Our main character, Akuba, is not your typical Cyberpunk hero. She lived on a garbage heap scraping bits of copper and metal from junked devices, eventually taking on a debt to get out of there. Now she helps people go unnoticed from the digital world while they party or attend events that might gain unwanted attention. Akuba is a strong character that has no problem facing off against a crime lord, a grey man(basically the CIA), or a punk trying to rip her off. She’s not perfect, she spends all of her money and is more than likely looking for a drink than trying to do more with her life, but she can handle herself and isn’t looking for a handout. I really enjoyed what Livingston did with her, he makes her this real person that should probably look more toward her well-being, but also someone who is still professional and knows what they are doing.
Then there is her friend Isaac, who Livingston makes more of your traditional Cyberpunk sidekick. He knows his way around tech and hacking drones, mysteriously has a large sum of money, and is the voice of reason. I liked him too, if only that he serves as someone for Akuba to banter with.
The two also serve as a great introduction into the world around them, doling out information without dumbing down the Cyberpunk talk or just dumping it all in awkward blocks of text. He also gives them both enough heart that you truly care for them and root for them as they face off against their enemies.
Now, as much as I loved the characters, I did have a little issue with the plot of Glitch Rain. I think it comes across as a bit forced. Akuba is paying off Shaky, the head tech junker from when she was younger and now something of a big time criminal. He wants Akuba to pay him off in full or he’ll kill her. When she tries, she gets ripped off and now there’s a hit on her head. Then we get this whole subplot about Shaky stealing some tech from the government and now they are hunting him down. Somehow this means that Shaky needs money. I don’t know if I buy this, mainly being that he seems to be this big name in the underworld which makes me wonder why he only needs money from Akuba. Wouldn’t he be able to shake down others? Which leads me to wonder why Akuba is even in the equation and if she was just stuck in to it for the sake of story.
Honestly it’s only a minor thing when compared to the world Livingston paints. We get to visit a giant trash island in the middle of the ocean that houses artists but is also a bit of a tourist trap. We discover that the rich prefer to live in cargo containers that are constantly on the move so that they can’t be traced. And all of the Cyberpunk stuff is top notch. The way that Livingston looks at things like drones and imagines a world where they do just about everything is amazing, or how he can see what information is collected about us and how someone might make a living off of deleting that info. It’s a fully realized vision that feels like we are only a few years away from.
I truly believe this is a great addition to the world of Cyberpunk. Livingston’s ability to see where technology is going and how it could be used is astounding. The future he shows us is mesmerizing and somewhat terrifying (depending on your view of our lives being online). He gives us two very entertaining characters and plugs them into a fast-paced sci-fi adventure that is sure to hook any fan of the genre.