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Review by KJ Van Houten

About Degree of Resistance

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. An innocent man condemned to cyborg slavery. A brilliant woman determined to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras belongs to the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose from the ruins of the West Coast. But Evie knows about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that Pacifica has turned her long-lost love Ben into a cyborg slave, she will risk everything to rescue him.

Saving Ben is the first step in a deadly game between Pacifica and a shadowy resistance group known as Rubicon. In return for Rubicon’s help, Evie must retrieve a hidden artificial intelligence that may hold the key to protecting Earth from a deadly new disaster.

Assuming the protectorate doesn’t find Evie first…

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Review of Degree of Resistance

The premise for this book sounds like a standard SF action story – people living in a future society where all is not what it seems – with a bit of romance. I did start read with that expectation in mind. I love cyborg stories, so reading the description mention a cyborg soldier, I knew this would catch my attention. Talk about underestimating a story!

Evie Contreras, the heroine of the story, is a personal technology assistant to a ‘Shareholder’, part of a large corporation that runs not on the business but also the politics of the Pacifica Protectorate, their society built from the ruins of the former West Coast of the US. She performs a variety of tech jobs for her client, gives online tech advice anonymously, plays mistress to her client’s spoiled nephew, and tries to find a way to spend time with her parents and adoptive daughter – who happens to be the biological daughter of Captain Benjamin Drake, the love of Evie’s life, her fiancé who died twelve years before while on a mission for the Protectorate Defense Forces. Evie has a very busy life, and I get the impression that part of the reason for that is to keep her mind off the loss of Ben and the sacrifice she made to give up her own future so that she could adopt and care for his daughter from a former marriage.

Reading about the Shareholders, their society, their reliance on personal enhancement technologies, and robotic slaves was a very interesting setup. But when the author started discussing the entertainment ‘retreats’, I took a step back. The scenery, the robotic roleplaying actors staffing the retreats – yeah, straight out of the TV series Westworld. (Or the movie from long ago that sort of traumatized me as a child, lol.) When the heroine discovers that one of these robotic ‘slaves’ in a Gold Rush era setting is a mirror image of her dead fiancé, I felt sure I knew where the story was heading. Nope! This is where the story took an interesting twist. This may be a bit too much of a spoiler, but I was quite pleased to read that the heroine does not fall in love with a robotic AI – turns out that the ‘resort’ was not just staffed with intelligent robots, but also real humans turned cyborg.

Here the story stops being like Westworld. I won’t go into more details, but let’s say there are explosions, a revelation of technologies believed not to exist, an android fortune teller, discovery of mind-controlled slaves, an underground resistance force against the dictates of the Protectorate, a villainous, sadistic military officer, a daring escape plan gone wrong, and a couple of reasons to stretch the definition of what it means to be human. And the story ends up an interesting setup for the next book!

Bottomline: If you like the Westworld series, dystopian stories, or just cyborgs in general, this will be an enjoyable read.

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