Drones by Rob Hayes Book Review

Write on: Mon, 04 Jun 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 3796


DRONES by Rob J. Hayes is a big departure for the writer. Normally, he is a writer of dark fantasy and grimdark epics. His IT TAKES A THIEF books were light steampunk fantasy but still very much in the magical genre. So, I was interested when he said he was doing a work in a sci-fi cyberpunk setting rather than a faux-Renaissance or Hyborian-Age era. Would he be able to write with his usual trademark wit in a entirely new environment?

The answer is yes. Drones is an excellent novel with strong world-building, writing, and a powerful arc for its main character. It's also a work which deals with a lot of uncomfortable subjects and follows a protagonist who is extremely flawed. Indeed, one of the elements I actually liked about this book was the fact Rob J. Hayes wasn't afraid to make his protagonist actively detestable at times.

The premise is James Garrick is a Drone in the not-so-distant future. Drones are the source of capitalized emotions which are harvested, bought, and sold. Man has successfully colonized the moon but corporate culture and tacky Ipod-like pads are still en vogue. James Garrick is also a junkie, but of a particular service. James is a man who regularly has his emotions harvested for re-sale to people who want to use them. Joy, love, sexual highs, and so on are the most positive but he isn't in it for the money. Instead, James just wants to be numb to all feeling.

Unfortunately, Garrick's life is about to change because emotion-harvesting is being legalized. Garrick is about to find his peculiar status as a tap for his drug-dealer employers rendered obsolete. This would be an interesting story by itself but his drug dealer is murdered along with every other emotion-harvester in the world. Having nothing else better to do with his life as his emotions slowly, but tortuously return, Garrick seeks to find out who killed his ex-boss.

Garrick isn't a particularly likable character and that's sometimes good in stories. Like Case from Neuromancer, Garrick is an addict who is primarily concerned with feeding his habit. All he wants is to feel nothing all of the time and hates the fact he is being forced to feel anything. The fact he's an ex-soldier makes some of the actions he takes later in the book more believable but it's interesting to follow a story about corporate corruption and drug-culture from someone who doesn't care about the morality.

I liked the depiction of how emotions are something which people acquire in this new world and how few people question where they come from. Like sweatshops in the real world, people want their product without questioning where it's created or how. The fact harvested emotions can ruin a person's brain is something the companies just need to print a little warning at the bottom for to make legal because there's so much money involved. Honestly, with so much money to be made, you wouldn't think the companies involved would feel the need to make the elaborate conspiracy they do in the book's middle.

If I have one complaint about the story, it's the fact it ends on a wee bit too of an upbeat note for a story which follows a broken wreck of a man. I would have expected it to have a Butch and Sundance or Harrison Bergarion-esque ending. The corrupt and awful society as well as immense toll which Garrick's addiction enacted on him is something I didn't expect to see have anything good come from.

In conclusion, Drones is an excellent cyberpunk story with a dark corporate conspiracy and interesting antihero as the driving character. I think fans of near-future sci-fi will enjoy it as well as those with thinking man's thrillers. Garrick is an excellent cynical protagonist who you understand the motivations of, even if you don't quite buy his desire for redemption.

Last modified on Thursday, 19 September 2019 01:23
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.