Humanity is in the eye of the beholder. But for street-smart detective Amber Payne, it's the eyes that aren't human. Cybernetic implants replaced the organics she lost in the line of duty, and their appearance often causes Amber to doubt her self-worth. Rookie detective Kevin Glass is her partner. And though he may be new, Kevin's unparalleled skill as an elite cyber-surfer makes him an invaluable asset. When Alta Corp contracts the two of them to solve a case of high stakes data theft, they will need every bit of skill, experience, and determination to succeed. For the more they investigate, the more it becomes evident that this case is much more than it appears, and its resolution may forever alter the world in which they live.
©2013 Jeff Brackett (P)2013 Jeff Brackett
Brackett's Streets of Payne is a gritty and futuristic police / detective story. Detective Payne works for a contract law enforcement company along with her partner who is an ace hacker and investigates first some missing files and then a kidnapping in connection with company making computerized prosthetics. The overall mood is a cyberpunk / Bladerunner style.
The sci-fi element are mainly artificial body parts, monster AIs, and computer hacking. The pacing is excellent with a good flow of back and forth between real world action (high tech weaponry and armor) and cyberspace battles. Payne is continually being put back together and with a sequel could end up becoming a female robocop.
The narration is first rate with an excellent range of voices
My Initial Reaction…
I loved the futuristic setting of Streets of Payne, which I knew I’d love just from the synopsis. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the characters and though some of the crime/mystery elements were solved a bit too easily for me, I enjoyed the flow of the story.
Joy Nash fit the characters really well and did a great job varying her voice for the different characters (including the machine voices). In fact, at one point I stopped and check to make sure it really was just one narrator because she was doing such a good job varying her voice! This was my first read with her, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more from Joy.
The only thing that really bothered me was the way that the recording were periodically have this futuristic chime between scenes. It bothered me because it didn’t signal anything consistently. At first I thought it signaled some sort of machine activity, but that turned out to be wrong. Then I thought it signaled a change in point of view, but that also turned out to be wrong. So if it had a purpose, other than to distract me because I wanted to know what it’s purpose was, I didn’t figure it out. I love it when audio books use sound effects well, but this was just pointless.
I grew to love the characters in Streets of Payne. I say GREW because at first we really only see things from Detective Amber Payne’s point of view and, at first, I didn’t like her. She seemed full of herself and obnoxious. But I grew to see that she actually just had a really quick temper and said things a lot of the time without thinking, which made her a flawed character and I kind of loved the way she’d stick her mouth in it all the time. And I think her quick temper and defensiveness definitely made sense. Payne lost her eyes (and yes, it’s described in detail. and yes, I cringed.) and thanks to the law enforcement agency she works for she has replacements. Since they weren’t too worried about the aesthetics, though, they are just these grey orbs. And people stare at her all the time. I can see how that would make a person a bit defensive.
It took a while before the story was told more from her partner’s (Kevin Glass) point of view, but I instantly loved him. He’s basically a hacker – one of the best in the world – and he has a great personality. He’s hilarious and I love the way he and Payne interact, with each other and with others. They fit together. For me, this book would have been better if we got to know Kevin much better and more of the story were told from his perspective. I love the scenes where he’s plugged in and doing technical warfare basically. It was so easy to understand (and I’m not at all technically informed) and yet it still managed to be really complex.
A few other characters are introduced as the story progresses, and one other point of view, but to talk about them too much would be a bit of a spoiler. So I’ll just say that I really liked all the characters. Brackett did a really good job of making even the more marginal characters vivid and likeable (or hateable, as the case may be).
Mostly, I loved the story for Streets of Payne. The futuristic world is fantastic – although I really wish I’d gotten a date (or decade) that the story took place in. Kind of a pet peeve of mine with futuristic worlds, but it didn’t really hurt in the long run. Brackett had marvelous details and great ideas – from the technology they use to the way people’s BODIES are being upgraded because of tech – they all worked really well. It was consistent and I never found myself thinking that a piece of tech didn’t make sense.
I would have liked to understand a bit more of how this world came to be. I guess this falls in with the date detail a bit. We get a glimpse when Payne goes into the Golf Course – an area that is super dangerous and basically inhabited by those who are either criminals or victims. But I would have liked a lot more background and world building to explain how things got this way. Similarly, Payne and Glass are detectives for a private law enforcement agency, because that’s the only kind that exists now. Again, this is briefly explained, but I would have liked a lot more. I think, though, that I may be a bit of a world-building glutton and my want for more could be a bit extreme.
The mysteries were both good and too simple. They were good in that I couldn’t solve them and didn’t see where things were going. I had lots of guesses, but the twists and turns kept me on my toes. But it was too simple for Payne. She figured things out too easily, IMHO. Too easy might be the wrong word though, since nothing is ever physically easy. Payne and Glass (and other, unnamed characters) engage in many very physical, very mentally demanding, and very PAINFUL fights. And, at one point, I was even brought to tears by how not easy things were.
Ultimately, Streets of Payne, was an action packed fast read and I enjoyed the characters immensely. It was a switch from my more typical reads and it has me thinking I might want to try out this genre more often.
I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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