‘This business we have chosen—it’s always personal.’
This volume is a collection of 12 short stories, set between 50 and 70 years in the future in a land that at first sounds different to our own, but soon feels very similar to what we live in today. Within Neon Leviathan, Australia and Vietnam have teamed up to fight against the empire of China. Every story is unrelated to the next with completely new characters and situations in each. This really kept me on my toes and I was constantly looking forward to see what Napper came up with next.
The advantage of lots of short stories is that there is always something new happening and rarely a chance for the plot to slow down. The disadvantage of short stories that aren’t linked is having to re-focus on new characters and scenarios, however Napper has an easy going prose and doesn’t leave the reader in the lurch.
‘The sea is vast and eternal. It has no malice, but it does have raw, unimaginable power. It is indifferent to human suffering.’
T.R. Napper definitely has a strong suit for characters. Each of our PoVs felt unique with a strong voice. Their actions and lives, though so far in the future, felt realistic and authentic to me, with each story playing out being believable which only added to the horror of some of them. Napper isn’t afraid to write about the dark side of this Cyberpunk land. There are themes that are tackled such as A.I and Virtual Reality as well as governmental management of politics and war crimes.
There are some excellent subtle uses of technology here, with retina displays and memory removers. To me, these stories included less extreme futuristic technology such as Blade Runner which allowed for a much more relatable story. Don’t worry though, there is lots of Sci-fi brilliance within them.
‘She decided the weight of betrayal, cowardice, and self-loathing were all the same, more or less. They were the weight of air, they were the weight of the world.’
What I found myself wishing for was a character that I was able to feel develop. Napper definitely writes character’s well so it would have been good to have seen how he wrote a character across an entire book. There is one remarkably longer story within Neon Leviathan which allowed me to see the beginning of this, which turned out to be my favourite story within it. There was depth and emotion as well as reference to the character’s past which helped paint the civilisation Napper has created.
‘You’re not real.’
4/5 - A good cyberpunk read that was full of subtle Sci-fi features that allowed me to stay grounded in the stories. A good advertisement for grimdark short stories in a cyberpunk world. It isn’t usually my thing, but I enjoyed it. If you like well-rounded characters, batman references and a world that is cruel and real, this is for you. Neon Leviathan is released 15th February.