kinetic action-filled cyberpunk thriller
ARVEKT by Craig Lea Gordon is a kinetic action-filled cyberpunk thriller that I absolutely love. If anyone anything about me, they’ll know that I am a huge fan of the cyberpunk genre. It is my favorite thing to read and write alongside superhero fiction. However, there’s a lot of what I term to be “falsely advertised” cyberpunk that claims to be about the gritty dark dystopian futures of the world with transhumanist themes but is usually just Lit-RPG by another name. There’s plenty of good Lit-RPG out there but very little of it is cyberpunk.
I’m pleased to say Arkvekt is the exception to this rule as it is a fantastic novel that is square within the hole of what I consider to be “true cyberpunk.” It is a bit more Ghost in the Shell than William Gibson, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. Cyberpunk can be a bunch of crazy borged-out ninjas fighting government conspiracies just as much as it can be dark and skeevy alleyways where people have more implants than food.
The premise is that Tannis Ord is a young soldier working for a mysterious black ops organization that protects the world from hackers as well as AI cultists and terrorists. It’s a brutal business and Tannis has a history of mental illness that has seemingly not stood in her way of continuing to serve as their assassin. Apparently, the Director just thinks they can erase the trauma and related issues with a wave of their hand.
Something is rotten in the state of the future, though, and Tannis can’t help but question her reality. In what is probably a nod to The Matrix but the more practical Augmented Reality, she struggles with seeing things that are not there as well as gaps in her memory. It could be related to her previous breakdowns, or it might be her mind rebelling against the reality that she has been presented.
Tannis is not the only character, though, and there’s multiple other interesting individuals trying to deal with the sense that things are not as they seem. My favorite is a Senator for the world government that is absolutely hell bent against giving the control of the world to the mysterious Ix that already runs most of the world’s functions. Indeed, I like that he’s as perplexed as anyone as to why so many people want to do it in the first place.
The book is excellent for slowly doling out its worldbuilding. You always have a bunch of information that gives you context for what is happening but there’s a lot of mysteries that keep you speculating. I especially liked the allusions to past tragedies and conflicts that brought humanity to this present state of authoritarian technocracy.
Arvekt is a book filled with twists, turns, fake-outs, and illusions. Many times, I thought I had a handle on where the book was going, only for it to surprise me by revealing it was going someplace entirely different. I occasionally got lost in the technology and jargon but that helped make the book feel like it was taking place in a wholly different world.