Monday, May 9, 2016

Book Review: The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill

The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill

Paperback, 368 pages

Published November 1st 2015 by Transworld Publishers

Literary Awards: Terry Pratchett Prize (2013)

"Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology—from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind's medical problems. But it is also a divided city, dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties. And when a devastating new computer virus begins to spread through the poorest districts, shutting down the life-giving implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle. Hiding amid the chaos is Zala Ulora. A gifted hacker and fugitive from justice, she believes she might be able to earn her life back by tracing the virus to its source and destroying it before it destroys the city—or before the city destroys itself. With its vivid characters, bold ideas, and explosive action, The Hive is science fiction at its most exciting, inventive, and accessible."

This is a really interesting modern cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller about a computer virus that crosses into body horror territory. In this future Cairo nearly every has mechanical upgrades woven into their bodies. So when A virus causes those bio-mechanical upgrades to fail the city falls into chaos and is shut off from the rest of the world. The political reality of this future city is the backbone of the story and drives the characters and plot. Our Point of view shifts but the main character is Zala Ulora who hacks her way back into the city even though many blame her father for creating the virus.

The street protests and resistance cells operating around the city are the most interesting aspects of the story. The kidnapping of powerful member of the city council to me provided the most interesting of the various plot threads. the novel explored several cool settings and ideas exploring the technology. This novel just didn't have the edge it needed, but still there were enough interesting elements to keep me reading. I felt the story of the councilman Ryan was at the same time the most interesting and confunding.

To me the biggest problem was that the novel felt like it was set in America, or somewhere in the west. When I saw that it was set in the middle east, I thought a sci-fi novel in a different cultural setting would be cool. The middle east of the future simply felt to recognizable to me. It was a wasted setting. I feel like Maskill could have benefitted from another year of research on the Arab Spring. That is what I was hoping for a cyberpunk twist on the revolution in the Middle East. Close, but just not exactly what I was hoping for. By the way I have no idea what the title means. No idea at all.

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