Perfect Gravity (Tether #2) by Vivien Jackson #BookReview #cyberpunk
When a story starts out with a good looking “nondigital” man singing off-key holiday songs and a reminder that Christmas is part of an “old world” that people tried to destroy, you know you’re not in Kansas—er, modern times—anymore. Perfect Gravity‘s opening pages set the scene for its high tech, gritty, glossy urban fantasy landscape. Welcome back to Vivien Jackson’s cyberpunk Tether universe, where the line between machine and human is indistinguishable, and Texas has seceded from the United States.
He wasn’t welcome here, another said. He was part of the problem, part of the old world and everything the modernists had sought to eradicate earlier this century.
In Wanted & Wired, Ms. Jackson proved she had writing chops, and Perfect Gravity doesn’t skimp on the colorful, creative prose. Her characters are steeped in the accents, expectations, and nuances of their various cultures, and the hero’s strong Southern accent is a real treat to experience.
“And don’t rush or nothing. I was gonna crash in the liberry.”
“The liberry. As in books. You do know English, dontcha?”
“Of course I know English. I’m from Minneapolis. And the correct pronunciation is li-brary. You’ll note the r.”
He tilted his head and a fringe of spun-gold hair half shrouded his face. It made him look like secrets and mischief. He grinned, and suddenly, Angela could not breathe. Could hardly think.
“Yeah. The library.”
The Tether story world puts me in a SciFi frame of mind, with philosophical themes reminiscent of the greats, both in serious SciFi literature and pop culture entertainment. Both books in this series have given me the itch to re-watch the movie Serenity. In fact, Kellen’s accent would blend right in on the deck of Captain Mal’s ship.
Kellen kicked back from the table, rolling the chair till it crushed into a plastic-printed ficus. He rose in one movement, clenching his fists and wishing he had something to squeeze. Or crush. Or hurl. He had things to say, but his internal editor kept his lips clamped shut. Mind frame like this, it was best not to let fly. Hollering without carefully choosing his words, especially when there were legit hollerable offenses going down and he was grumpy as all get-out, was against his personal rule set.
The tech in this story world is uber cool. Like geek out cool. Where else do you see a “vintage tesla” referred to as an “old-timey car”?
Mech-Daniel could do this next part for her—he was capable of following multiple instruction threads at once—but there were still some tasks that Angela preferred to do for herself. Using the mobile com built into her forearm and the heads-up on the backs of her eyelids, she located a transit station three city blocks away and bought two landjet tickets under one of her many aliases.
There’s nothing like the bitchy honesty of a cat, especially one that can talk. And oh how I adore this little piece of story world-building…
“I know you,” the com said, pushing a completely unfamiliar voice into Angela’s brain. A sandpapery voice with a digital edge. Clear green eyes stared up at her solemnly. “My human. I want you to pet me. I also want to bite you.”
Aside from her spot-on dialogue and character development, the vibrance and depth of Ms. Jackson’s scene setting is probably what I love most about her writing. In Wanted & Wired, she led us on a high-tech chase with a snazzy Night-Rideresque car, a Firefly-inspired space plane, and a Star-Trek-TNG worthy space station. Heron Farad, W&W’s hero, even reminded me a little of Data with a well-adjusted emotion chip. Perfect Gravity follows right along, with a hero whose speech so resoundingly echoes Captain Mal’s that I can’t possibly not hear the accent in my head as I read along. The settings are just as satisfying too, from posh, glittery, vid-worthy campaign galas to the stark, toxic, ruined shells of the underwater cities lining the Gulf Coast, all looked on from the safety of a plush, personal, modern submarine that inspires thoughts of 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
She let his soft sarcasm pass. It wasn’t an overt challenge to her authority, and to be honest, she didn’t mind being called princess. Princesses were things that had happened. They weren’t myths. Princesses could be mighty. Princesses could become queens.
On a personal note, many of the references in Perfect Gravity hit close to home for me. Kellen is from my home town of Lufkin, out in East Texas, and I loved flashing back to the little idiosyncrasies that remind me so much of my time in Austin.
“Yeah, Angelina County. Big pine trees, bigger cockroaches. Everything in Texas is big. You know it has—had—five distinct climatic regions? This here is a cold desert, but we should be heading into coastal lowland as we skirt south of San Antone.”
He said it wrong on purpose, almost defiantly, owning the mispronunciation. People from this area said a lot of things wrong. Guadaloop instead of Guadalupe. Man-chack instead of Manchaca. Blaynco instead of Blanco. The speech pattern drew heckling from outsiders, and it had been a complete bitch during continental and language integration debates, but they kept on, almost like they were proud of their ignorance. Kind of like how Kellen had always held onto his twang.
I really enjoyed this story, but there were times when some of the dialogue and logic jumps went right over my head (and I’m fairly geeky), so I recommend this series for readers who enjoy heavy science and tech references, who aren’t intimidated by genius characters and logic jumps. You’ll probably also want to read Wanted & Wired first, since this story gives away some of the plot points of that book, and it builds on the story world and cast of characters already established. Perfect Gravity is a recommended read for fans of gritty science fiction romance with an urban dystopian feel.
New to the Tether story world? Don’t miss out on the first book in this series, Wanted & Wired, the GraveTells Book of the Month for April 2017. Check out the GraveTells Romance review here (click!), or grab your own copy from Amazon here (click!).
If you’re ready go dive right into Perfect Gravity, snag your copy on Amazon here (click!), available November 7, 2017.
AND, check out the September GraveTells Romance Podcast, Gamer Girls in Romance, featuring author Vivien Jackson. She talks about Perfect Gravity and her livelong love of gaming. Click below to listen!