Division Zero Series #1
Most cops get to deal with living criminals, but Agent Kirsten Wren isn’t most cops.
A gifted psionic with a troubled past, she possesses a rare combination of abilities that makes her a powerful weapon against paranormal threats. Adrift in a society that fears people like her, she feels alone in a city of millions.
In 2418, rampant violence and corporate warfare have left no shortage of angry wraiths. Most are little more than fleeting shadows or eerie whispers in the darkness, but every so often, one gathers enough strength to threaten the living.
A series of attacks by androids known as dolls leave the normal police baffled. Unable to explain what made the machines malfunction, they punt the case to Division 0. Kirsten’s investigation into who – or what – is behind the random murders soon makes her a target for corporate assassins.
Despite her past, and the cynical city around her, she clings to the belief that no one is beyond redemption. Alas, the killer is desperate to claim as many innocent souls as possible, and one might just be hers.
Publisher: Division Zero Press
Balancing fast-paced, street-level cyber-strife with psychological (and psionic) nuance, Cox makes the reader feel the decaying substance beneath the frenetic style.
Rampant corporations tore the old world apart in their struggle for economic supremacy. Now those same corporations all but rule the technological enclaves scattered across the tainted wastelands that were nations. Caught between these duelling behemoths and a disadvantaged populace, the police are rarely loved. But none are more shunned than Division Zero, a unit formed of psionics. When a series of killings by android servants leave regular police baffled,
Agent Kirsten Wren, cursed and blessed with the ability to interact with ghosts, is tasked with investigating possible paranormal causes.
With filthy urban sprawl, flashing neon, cutting-edge technology, and the same base perversities as every period of history, this novel immediately evokes the feel of cyberpunk. However, unlike the stochastic processors and quantum detectors of classic street-grunge, psychic powers are real. Science and the spirit world are not always comfortable bedfellows, but Cox skilfully contrasts reason and fantasy to create something that is neither order nor chaos. As such, the high-technology feels more real for the continued presence of faith.
One key to this balancing act is the grittiness of psychic powers: most people either don’t believe in or fear the rare psionics; even other police officers usually don’t view them as real police. And, while psionics can achieve things ordinary people can’t, using powers costs energy or exposes them to added risk. This makes Kirsten’s extra ability as much an obstacle as an advantage, turning it from a magical benefit into a different-yet-equal tool to the cybernetic upgrades and other technologies wielded by ordinary people.
However, Kirsten’s death-sight also opens up fresh psychological ground: if the ghosts of the dead linger until they either release their hold on this world or are torn from it by mysterious forces, then is there an afterlife and a set of rules to earn it?
Kirsten herself displays this same mix of classic cyberpunk trope and fresh psychological quirks. The child of a dysfunctional family that was unwilling to accept her powers, her behaviour is unconsciously limited by her fear and hatred of her parents for their inadequacy; a situation not helped by her father’s ghost trying to be part of her life. And when she does escape him, there are plenty of other ghosts to berate her for not helping, demand she explain what’s going on, or leer while she takes a shower.
The supporting cast have a similar balance between grimy neon and shaped emotion: hackers might be skilled programmers, but might equally have an electrokinetic edge; energy bladed assassins stalk people who can shred minds by will alone; and the corporations keep getting richer from both sides.
Overall, I enjoyed this greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking a fusion of cyberpunk and paranormal thriller that does justice to both.
I received a free copy from the author with no obligation to review.