ARC Review, Book Review, Science Fiction

Oshibana Complex by Craig Hallam

Welcome to Shika-One City, humanity’s final home.

Nations have come together. Gender and race are petty concerns of the past. But not everything is well in Shika-One.

Humanity can no longer procreate and has to synthesize future generations. But there aren’t many genetic templates to go around and meeting yourself on the street is a daily occurrence. With so many people wearing the same face, the synths of Shika-One strive for individuality in a world where stepping out of line can lead to the shredder.

In this pulsing neon world lives Xev and eir friends, all hard-working synths who maintain their designations to earn the XP to live and hope to afford the holographic shams that cover up their similarities. That is, until a new synth makes Xev start to ask big questions that might upset the status quo.

In Shika-One, life is cheap.

Xev is about to discover what e’s worth.

I received this book a while back. When I first picked it up, I had a hard time getting into it and had to place it down. It was because of the use of Spivak pronouns (E/eir/em). I did not know what they were, and it was something I had never come across before. It was not until I was reading another book (Black Sun) who also used gender neutral pronouns that helped me figure out what I was reading and how to work around it. After reading Black Sun, I gave this story another chance. The work around worked and helped me get into the story better. I have nothing against gender neutral pronouns. Now that I understand what they are, I can train my brain.

This story needed to be longer or a series. The reason for this is, I did not have time to feel anything for these characters. I liked them and they were written well. There was not anyone I did not like, but that was it. Xev’s arc was great, and they were written as well as they could have, with this being a novella. The emotion they went through was written well, but still I was not emotionally tied to them. The romance felt either forced or rushed.

There are two worlds in this story: Shika-One City, which is the real world, and Alkia, which is their MMORPG world. Shika is a bland world. It is under a dome with fake sky and neon signs. There is your dark underbelly world which seems to be the synths that were “deactivated” and your top world where synths have human like jobs and are “activated”. In this world, there is no money or bitcoins, there is XP (experience points). The synths work hard and earn little to nothing, which they have to use for everyday necessities we take for granted.

Alika is a gaming program where synths can go in and earn more xp by doing quests. Depending on how hardcore they are, they can earn enough to ease by, or they can earn a living. This was kind of neat. It was like a virtual mmorpg game. The world is full of monsters and pirates depending on the program they choose to play. The author did extremely well with the world build.

One thing I wish was for this to be a longer story and/or a novella series. I did not feel satisfied. The author could have fleshed out the story better, knowing the story could continue. The idea behind the story was interesting. But I left the story with more questions than answers. The ending felt rushed and almost bored.

This is feeling like this is just not my genre. This is okay. If this still piques your interest, I say read it! Overall, it was not a bad story. I will recommend this to anyone who loves science fiction and cyberpunk.

*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion.

I give this book a 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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