Future worlds, thrills, crime, action, and foreign lands … these are the ingredients that are dangled before the diners sitting at Mr. Cross’s table. We’ve sampled technothrillers before, but The Immortality Game promises to take things a step beyond the near-now. Will taking the technothriller formula forward another century add a swirl of delicious flavor to our dish or will it simply confuse the literary palate?
Before we find out, let’s recount the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
My fellow literary foodies, the real trick is that Mr. Cross takes us across the technological gulf from technothriller to true cyberpunk. I’m not talking the crunchy recycled hash full of Mr. Johnsons and cyber-samurai that’s been rehashed so many times. Game is more akin to the progenitors of the genre and there’s a certain form of purity of flavor that comes from that. More than that, by sticking to its own story and alternate history, this particular slice of cake creates its own unique flavor while still giving that bit of nostalgic tang that reminds you of other meals you’ve loved in the past.
While that speaks volumes of the chef’s mastery of the genre ingredient, that’s only one part of a good literary meal. There are other vital concerns: characters, plot, pacing, style, all that sort of thing. I could easily generalize here, but it would be a disservice to Mr. Cross to do so. Let’s take it from the top then!
The chef of Game juggles a platterful of characters, primarily focusing on a small group of point-of-view characters. The cast is large enough to risk being muddled, lost in the rest of the literary batter, but Mr. Cross does an admirable job of keeping it all straight. Clear, concise scene shifts and strong character identities serve to keep the reader straight on the action, while the chef makes certain to lay tracks and run distinct character arcs for our protagonists. There is a certain stark realism mixed in with the cyberpunk conventions that makes our two main protagonists utterly believable. The only thing that seemed potentially odd at the start was the seeds of a romantic subplot, but even that makes sense as more of the plot and the world are revealed. Kudos, as well, to the chef for his resolution of this (I can say no more because SPOILERS)!
I don’t think I need to say that the plot is well-blended and laid out at this point. As I said, our characters follow a smooth arc and the plot moves with it. What I find rather interesting is the themes of agency and lack of agency woven throughout every course of the meal. Again, I cannot breach my contract to give specifics, but I will only say that there are some rather deep ideas here if you wish to look for them. At the same time, you can simply approach it as the cyberpunk thriller it is and enjoy it just as much.
Really, while I could go on for paragraphs, let’s cut to the chase. The Immortality Game is a flavorful, spicy serving of cyberpunk thriller delight! If you like thrillers, science-fiction, and especially the cyberpunk genre, this is a must-read. Even if you don’t, you should seriously consider sitting down at Mr. Cross’ table for the well-written characters, just so long as you can stand a little grit and violence.
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A flavorful, spicy serving of cyberpunk thriller delight!)