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INSCAPE ****
Written by Louise Carey.

Published in paperback by Gollancz, 416 pages. RRP £14.99.

Out now.

 

After co-writing two fantasy novels with her parents, including Mike Carey who also wrote THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, Louise Carey makes her solo debut with this future set tale of corporate conflict taken to a disturbingly plausible extreme. INSCAPE is the first in a trilogy telling the tale of Tanta, a young woman who has been raised since childhood by Intech as a Corpward, basically a combat trained investigator with an inbred and near fanatical loyalty to the vast faceless corporation that has raised her as an asset. Tasked with retrieving a cache of stolen data from the unaffiliated zone between the borders of the land that InTech rules over and the land run by its dangerous rival corporation Thoughtfront, Tanta soon finds herself in a violent encounter that leaves her fellow corporate teammates dead.

 

Aided by the memory addled Cole, another InTech resident/employee, Tanta is tasked with an investigation into who may have stolen these files and why. She soon finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy that leads her to confront some uncomfortable home truths about Intech and herself also.

 

In an age of people blindly signing massive unread reams of Terms and Conditions to gain access to various online endeavours and easy living, Carey’s storyline of corporations ruling over all aspects of our lives seems disturbingly prescient. Set at an unspecified point in the future after a mysterious event referred to as the Meltdown, the future portrayed here is still not too far removed from our own present. It lends an uneasy quality to the story that grips the reader from the beginning. Information on how and why such things are the way they are is drip fed throughout the book sparsely and even the lead characters are in the dark, not only to the world that they are in but to themselves also.

 

Carey manages effortlessly to make these qualities interesting and exciting instead of opaque and infuriating. She leads the reader along with a plot filled with a number of mysteries and engaging characters to explore them and the society around them. While her prose may come across as plain, and perhaps unadventurous in exploring the inbuilt technology that the characters use, an area in which other cyberpunk writers love to indulge themselves in, the strength of the storyline itself manages to additively encourage you to just read one more chapter before putting the book down.

 

At times it is reminiscent of the setting and characters of the GHOST IN THE SHELL Manga and Anime series and its premise of ruthless corporations ruling over the world is shared with Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s LAZARUS graphic novels which it examines in greater detail to great unease. INSCAPE however still manages to grip and entertain from the beginning and carves its own identity as it moves along. By the end of this first book and thanks to its satisfying and page turning storyline it will no doubt have readers eager to explore this uneasy yet enticing future society in the second instalment in this very promising trilogy.

 

Iain MacLeod.

 

 

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