Review of KINDLE Ebook Virology – Book 2 of the Shock Pao series by Ren Warom

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Escapology, impressed with the strong characterisation and vivid worldbuilding in this cyberpunk adventure, so I pounced on the sequel and have taken far too long getting around to reading it…

Core is dark and Slip is everywhere, vital to everything that happens in the world and outside of anyone’s control. Avis float the skies and their arrival will trigger a tide of rebellion against the system in Foon Gung.

The key is Shock Pao, within him lies the means to control Slip. Control Slip, control the world. Shock was a Haunt once, impossible to find, but he isn’t anymore, and he’s running out of places to hide. Shock finds himself on the run from, well, everyone. This time though, he’s not alone. But as the sickness infecting the Patient Zeros gets worse and begins to spread, he and his rag-tag group of friends must begin a desperate search for a cure. If they don’t find out what’s causing this, who’s causing this and find a way to put a stop to it, everything they’ve fought for, the brief freedom they’ve managed to achieve, will come undone. But with everyone after Shock, it’s going to take every skill they possess – both legal and illegal – to hunt down the source of the sickness.

I don’t generally reread books and it was a while since I’d read Escapology so for a handful of the opening scenes, I was slightly adrift working out what was going on. However, it didn’t take long to get my bearings in the world, again. That said, if you generally don’t crash midway into series (it’s one of my main hobbies) then do track down the excellent first book before tackling this one – you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.

Once comfortably back with these extraordinary characters, I was in Warom’s dense world and enjoying the ride. She manages to braid some lyrical descriptions with grungy settings, where you can almost smell the decomposing rubbish – and she manages to pull off the same knack with her characters. Amiga is essentially a merciless killing machine – anyone who stands in her way risks death. And yet, I really like her, despite not generally being a huge fan of gory fights. It doesn’t hurt that Warom is also deft at weaving a dark thread of humour throughout her stories, which helps leaven the gritty settings, horrible living conditions and patently unjust social system in this dystopian future version of our world.

While Warom’s scene setting is exceptionally good, it is her characters that ping off the page and give her story a slightly larger than life, almost gothic feel about them. I really cared about them – and given that there is a high death rate – I found myself holding my breath every time they went on a raid. While they were often fighting against better equipped, more numerous adversaries, Warom manages to convince me when they prevail.

I also enjoyed the ending, which worked well for me. Though, I’m sure Shock will continue getting into trouble – he isn’t built for routine, everyday life. Whatever else befalls him, I’m hoping that Warom will write about it.
9/10

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11 responses »

    • I have really enjoyed this cyberpunk duology – Warom has managed to depict a very detailed alternate landscape without neglecting the characterisation and not all authors in this genre manage to do that…

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