Genre: Cyberpunk — Scifi
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Self Published (March 1, 2017)
Length: 394 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
I’ve come to the realization that Michael Fletcher is among my favorite writers. Whether it is the fantasy insanity of Beyond Redemption or this cyberpunk vision of the future, he finds the perfect balance between madness and sentiment, poignance and action to keep me turning the pages. The guy never writes a bad story. At least, in my opinion, and Ghosts of Tomorrow is yet another amazing novel.
Step into the future. The world is carved up into huge multi-national Trade Unions. There is peace, of a sort. But the world itself has drastically changed due to environmental issues; people forced to wear breathing masks due to the air pollution, deal with power shortages, and brave unbearable heat nearly all year round. Thank God, they have a supercharged internet, superpowered computers, and near superhuman robots to deal with all the annoying shit in life.
There is one problem though. All that amazing technology requires huge amounts of processing power. So much that the artificial intelligence of the time can’t provide enough. In fact, the only processor able to supply the required power is the human brain itself.
A whole new technology springs into existence. Special computers and software created to transfer a digital copy of the human consciousness (dubbed Brain Scans) into a computer. These digitized versions of people used to control every sort of airplane, vehicle, computer and robotic device in the world!
Only one problem: the transfer process kills the person. Not many healthy humans lining up to trade a real life for immortality as a brain scan. And so the demand for human brains exceeds the people willing to undergo the “life-changing” procedure.
But human ingenuity always rises to the occasion. Black market “creches” popping up across the globe. Young children abducted or purchased like livestock, raised in inhuman conditions until their brain scans are harvested for the highest bidder. Genetic manipulation of fetuses even used to create autistic children whose brain power is directed toward specific areas of learning. All of this very illegal and very profitable for the bastards doing it.
Enter our cast of characters. From North American Trade Union (NATU) official Griffin Dickinson to tech mogul Mark Lokner, from Gunnery Sergeant (and Brain Scan) Abdul to Miles the computer genius, from autistic child 88 to deadly assassin Archaeidae, Ghosts takes you into each of their lives. Their individual parts in the overall narrative action-packed, gritty, sad, funny, and terribly, terribly believable. The final resolution not so much a conclusion as an ending where the reader finally is able to take a well deserved rest.
There are so many things which worked in Ghosts. But since I always criticize authors when they forget to create engaging characters, I think it only fair I start with that aspect of this book. And, without a doubt, Michael Fletcher does an amazing job introducing readers to this diverse cast and making you feel like you know everyone of them. He doesn’t waste time giving tons of back story on them either, merely reveals everything you need to know as the story rockets forward from exciting event to exciting event. Every person from brain scan to injured, exhausted NATU investigator coming alive; their individual quirks, annoying habits, and dreadful inspirations so easy to learn, empathize with, and hate. Reading the final sentence of the book difficult, because you have grown to like these people and still want to know so much more about where they go from here.
As for this cyberpunk world, it is another homerun for Fletcher. His world building spectacularly done. Many times cyberpunk worlds are too damn strange, too farfetched, or too unrealistic compared to the 21st Century we all live in to be easily accepted. But every single technological, environmental, societal, or political element of this future earth was very realistic and grown so organically from the current status quo that I never once found it hard to grasp, understand, or believe could very easily take place in the future. Quite frankly, it was terribly real – like in the Matrix way, where you wake up like Neo and discover you’re a damn battery. Scary stuff.
There is even time in all the frenetic action for more than a few moments of dark humor and philosophy. No, they do not happen all the time, but they are there, at well timed intervals. The chuckles and laughs breaking up the horrors of what is going on around these people. The morality of transhumanism causing the gory violence to mean more, as it demands that a reader decide for themself what they believe is right or wrong in the eternal effort to uplift humankind.
As for criticisms of the book, I don’t have any. Well, I take that back; I do have one. Where is the next book, dammit! I mean, you can’t leave someone with a final line like that and an epilogue like that and not tell us what happens next, Michael Fletcher!
Ghosts of Tomorrow is a high octane book which wows with its amazing characters, extreme violence, poignant moments, dark humor, and horrific world of tomorrow. Plus the cover is damn amazing. I mean, a four-armed robotic assassin, wielding samurai swords and six guns while wearing a duster and a cowboy hat? What the hell else do you need to know before buying this one already?