This isn’t my first introduction to CT Phipps. I’ve read Wraith Knight, and there are some similarities between the two main characters in both these books that threw me a bit, but not enough to detract from my overall enjoyment. And really, that’s the one reason this isn’t a five star for me.
This story takes place in first person narration, inside the thoughts and mind of Cassius. He’s in hiding, originally part of the nobility but now masquerading aboard a space ship as the navigator. His life has been upended by war, and he was part of the losing side. Hence, his desire to just coast on by and not be noticed, since he was the hero for said losers. He’s cybernetically enhanced, and in this world, only the wealthy can afford such upgrades. They have the ability to blend humanity with technology, and make themselves more beautiful, smarter, and wealthier and therefore the lower classes stay stuck in their unimportance, while the wealthy keep all the power and prestige. Cassius is gradually finding himself disgusted with this type of system, while also benefitting from it personally.
The story itself is fascinating, since the world building is done so well. There are moral issues addressed, along the lines of cloning and robotics. The book seems to be a foretelling of where the real world is headed, almost a prophetic foreshadowing that shouts for the reader to stay awake and pay attention. It’s a needed wake up call, too. After all, what makes us human? What makes cloning morally okay or not okay? Is self-awareness the dividing line? This book brings up some great tension, and Cassius wrestles with these societal norms while trying to fight his own demons. Is he a good man or not? Does one side of this war have the stronger moral claim to being right?
Ultimately, this book doesn’t provide answers as much as it provides a catalyst to getting the reader thinking and questioning along with Cassius. For my part, I definitely appreciated this tale. I only wish the dichotomy between who Cassius was becoming (a good man, despite his protests) lined up more with his actions. He had a dysfunctional view on sex and violence, and as such, only followed the cultural take on them. I wish he had been more of a maverick and paved his own way. But that’s also what makes characters believable, right? We are ALL dysfunctional in one way or another. The difference is whether we know it or not. Cassius had self awareness in this regard, but maybe not enough incentive to change.
All in all, 4.5 stars out of 5 for me. Really enjoyed this.