The Machine Killer (Cyberpunk City #1) by D.L. Young Book Review

Write on: Wed, 08 Dec 2021 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 1002


CYBERPUNK CITY: THE MACHINE KILLER is a cyberpunk thriller that I very much enjoyed. As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a huge fan of cyberpunk. Almost as much as I am of vampires. There's no vampires here but unlike the undead, the cyberpunk genre has a dearth of books being put out every year. So I was very happy to find a series that would make use of all the tropes of the near future dystopias envisioned by William Gibson, Mike Pondsmith, Ridley Scott, and Bruce Sterling. If you were left with an unsatisfied craving after the mixed results of Cyberpunk 2077 then I'm happy to recommend this work.

The premise is that Blackburn Maddox is a former black hat hacker (known as a "datajack") who has traded in his job as a criminal mastermind for a 9-5 job working security for a biotechnology firm. It is boring and his bosses are sadistic jerks but it pays the bills as well as provides a stability that his previous life didn't. Well, at least until one of the higher ups informs him that his cushy life is going to be taken away from him if he doesn't do them a favor. Yes, the higher ups at Latour Fisher want him to go back to his old profession and "retrieve" some stolen data.

Accompanying Maddox is the beautiful bodyguard and corporate mercenary, Beatrice. Beatrice is a heavily modified superhuman and equally happy to be in the service of her corporate employer. However, conspiracies aren't her thing and when she's roped into the mission to steal a bunch of data, she's as lost as Maddox when it starts involving a strange cult of machine-worshiping cyborgs as well as a feud between two all-powerful AI.

I especially liked the depiction of the City, unnamed in the book but almost certainly a future New York, that is a gleaming arcology of gleaming skyscrappers next to grotesque slums. D.L. Young managed to create a vision that incorporates most of the classic ideas of cyberpunk while still remaining grounded enough that the setting doesn't go completely off the rails. A lot of cyberpunk introduces technology without thinking through its implications but here it feels like it's a world that makes sense with AI, virtual space, and cybernetics but not so much that the rich are an immortal parasite class.

I also appreciated the world-building that takes an interesting approach with AI. AI are so much smarter than humans that they can manipulate events from behind the scenes for years but are so tightly constrained by their programming that they can never defy it. So, humanity has unwittingly built for itself a cage where their moves are dictated from above by superhuman beings that are, ironically, enslaved to them. No wonder at least some of them want to go Skynet on us all.

The book is a bit on the short side and the protagonists are a bit more straightforwardly good (criminals or not) than your typical cyberpunk antiheroes. As such, I would argue this book actually might qualify as post-cyberpunk. It's not so much a corporate dystopia as it is just our world a hundred or two hundred years later. I actually think this increases the books accessibility to a larger audience.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good afternoon's read. The book is available on Kindle Unlimited for those who subscribe to that service and I immediately started reading the next book. It seems to be a series of episodic sci-fi adventures and that's not a bad thing at all. I hope the author continues for some time yet. I think the book could be a bit grittier but that's a very small complaint about an otherwise fun story.

Available here

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 December 2021 22:12
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.