Stars: 3.5 out of 5
I don’t usually read a lot of cyberpunk. Mostly because the few books I tried, I couldn’t get into the story. I did love the game Cyberpunk 2077, even though it had its own bugs and frustrating moments. So when I read the description of Dogs of DevTown, I decided to give it a try, and I’m happy I did. This is more of a novella then a novel, so it’s short and very readable. I think I knocked it out in two evenings, even though I wasn’t rushing myself.
I like the imagery the author created. The multicolored holograms reflecting off the skyscrapers of DevTown. The sea of humanity clogging the streets at any time of day or night, looking for their next vice. The rain, the stench… It is a tantalizing but also depressing image, since this DevTown, even though modern looking, seems soulless and unforgiving. I reminded me a little about the dystopian landscape of Blade Runner, and I love that movie (the original one.
I also liked our protagonist. Shan is prickly and can come across as rather rude and uncaring, and she tries very hard to live like she is an island, but I have known people like that. In her line of work, the only person you can trust is yourself. The only person you can afford to care about is yourself as well. She tracks and kills people for money after all. So if she wants to stay on this side of the grave herself, she can’t ask too many questions. Just enough to find the person she is paid to kill and get the job done. She gets paid, then she forgets about it. Much safer to live that way… only nobody is really an island, no matter how much they try. And sooner or later something happens that will make even the most isolated person decide to dig deeper.
The other characters in the book were sufficiently fleshed out to be interesting, even memorable for some of them. I found the main villain rather over the board though. Also, there is a big logical hole with the villains motivation. I won’t talk about it here because that would spoil the book, but that made the villain a lot less believable for me, and elicited a few eyerolls until I finished the story.
My biggest problem with this book, and the reason I only gave it 3.5 stars, is a huge plot hole that the author left in the story. I understand that he probably wrote himself in a corner and didn’t know how to keep the story going if he patched that particular plot hole, but it was so big and obvious, a semi truck could have fallen into it.
So the author goes to great lengths to tell us that Shan has no mech augments whatsoever. He also makes sure we know that she has never been on the Net, because she doesn’t have mech augments or a port to jack into the system. So how can she catch a virus that transmits itself through the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals that connect different mechs to the Net? She doesn’t have any, remember? Okay, maybe it’s a virus that can jump the hardware to wetware barrier (insert eyeroll here). It’s a cyberpunk book, so everything is possible. So I could have rolled with the fact that unaugmented Shan caught a computer virus.
The problem though is that she is a closed system. She doesn’t have mech. She isn’t connected to the Net. No Wi-fi, no Bluetooth, remember? So how is the creator of the virus able to communicate with her? It’s a virus that infects mech. She is full human. There is no logical way for it to happen. That’s the point where I lost interest in the story. I can only suspend my disbelief so much.
But if you are willing to ignore that particular problem and just roll with it, this book is a fun read. Plus, it’s short, so it’s a nice little pallet cleanser between longer books.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.