Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Hard Reboot by Django Wexler: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Hard Reboot by Django Wexler

Hard Reboot is a short sci-fi novel (novella) you can read in one sitting, but it manages to have both a rich world and an exciting plot. It’s set in far future earth that’s been abandoned to its fate millennia ago and serves mostly as a curiosity destination for rich off-world colonists or as a research opportunity for academics. But people still live there, making most of the opportunities the world offers them—which aren’t much.

Kas is an off-world academic. She’s a third-wave colonist, and while her ancestors have arrived on her planet a thousand years ago, she’s considered lower class and it affects her chances in academia. She’s clawed her way on an academic expedition to earth as a data-archaeologist, determined to make the most of her chance, only to learn that instead she’s expected to help a lazy first-wave colonist (effectively an aristocrat) to conduct her research, or do it for her.

Kas’s visit to earth takes an unexpected turn, however, when she’s tricked into placing a huge bet on a robot fight by Zhi, the robot’s pilot. They’re huge humanoid robots operated from the inside; I imagined jaegers from Pacific Rim, but smaller and for one pilot. Kas doesn’t have that kind of money, but the system automatically uses the expedition’s funds, which puts her academic career in jeopardy. And that’s even though the fight goes for her, because she still owes the house’s cut.

To avoid paying, Kas tracks Zhi to where scavengers live under the city and learns that Zhi has another robot, one that Kas is dying to research. Zhi persuades Kas for a double or nothing dare: Kas funds the restoration of the battle robot (with the money that isn’t hers) for a chance to win big. Since she’s already neck-deep in it, she agrees.

For such a short book, the stakes are high, though unevenly so. Kas might lose her career, but Zhi will lose her life if things go wrong. The women are an odd pair, but friendship and even a romance form between them. And Kas ends up risking her life in the final battle too. The ending is satisfying and doesn’t leave the reader wanting for anything.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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