"Into Neon: A Cyberpunk Saga" is the first book in an ongoing series by newcomer Matthew A Goodwin. I stumbled on the book rather by accident, thought the cover art was pretty legit, and thought I'd give it a try. Turned out to be a good idea!
The novel follows main character Moss, who is a well-meaning but ignorant stooge for a corporately run planet Earth. Little does Moss know, however, that his small and comfortable world is about to be turned upside down. When a mysterious visitor gives Moss gives an item that could take down the evil corporations that run earth, our protagonist is thrust headlong into a world he never knew existed, a world in which he is completely out of his element. Will Moss be able to untangle a tantalizing familial mystery and find the gumption to stop a seemingly invincible foe?
At first blush, "Into Neon" has all the marks of a clichéd cyberpunk story: evil corporations, gritty locales, weird characters, dystopian noir, and the list goes on. However, from page one, the story grabs you and never lets go. While the book does feature the above attributes, it uses them in a way that is novel and fresh. I found myself refreshed and delighted by the storytelling, and was more than happy to tag along for the wild ride. The story is engaging and original, while also moving at a fast pace. "Into Neon" does an admirable job of creating that strong mood that every cyberpunk story needs, while also balancing it with razor-sharp action and suspense. If you're used to cyberpunk that wallows in ponderous, slow stupor, look elsewhere. This is a moody novel that moves at lightspeed!
The great plot of "Into Neon" is matched by its superlative characterization. I was particularly impressed with author Goodwin's deft handling of Moss's character. Soft corporate hack is turned into strong resistance hero in a way that is compelling and believable, while also being done in a short amount of time. The rest of the cast is delightfully eccentric and bizarre, with great entertainment value, while also highlighting how technology has become so invasive in the human body. Some of the dialogue was so off-the-wall and funny it had me laughing out loud.
The novel is well-written, and effectively uses its rather short length. I appreciate that the story is self-contained, but also leaves room for expansion, should you like to read more of the books in the series--and I will read them for sure! One particular quality of the book that I found effective was its use extremes in the setting. The book begins in a bland, sterile environment (any THX 1138 fans out there?) that moves to the bright, sensory overload reminiscent of Blade Runner, and I was fascinated by this use of extremes. Also evident is the author's strong grasp of where technology and society are heading in the future. While entertaining to boot, the novel acts as a sort of cautionary tale, in the way that the very best books do.
"Into Neon: A Cyberpunk Saga" is quality science fiction that expertly balances a thoroughly cyberpunk plot with the speed of an action thriller. Matthew Goodwin pilots the novel with a sure hand, and I look forward to his future output. Read the book and I think you'll agree that Mr. Goodwin is going places.
NOTE: Before moving to book 2-"Corroded Cells"-I might suggest you check out the novella "Deadly in Pink," which is a prequel novel about Ynna that gives her backstory.