Re-Coil is set in a future where humanity has spread to colonize the solar system, having achieved immortality via the use of coil technology, a hybrid of quantum computing with genetic engineering that means you only lose as much of your life as you neglected to back up in your secure file. Carter Langston is a loner who ekes out a living performing salvage work with the rest of the crew of the Persephone. When a retrieval goes monstrously awry, he finds himself downloaded into a fresh body, with barely any time to recover before an assassin tries to end him for good. Discovering that someone tried to wipe out his backup file — something that should be virtually impossible — he reaches out to his former crew members and can find only one, also on the run. Shay Chan has been downloaded into a body she cannot stand, but that won’t stop the duo from seeking to discover why they’ve been targeted for annihilation. The secrets they uncover point to the very destruction of humanity as they know it, if they can’t rise to the occasion and eliminate a threat that’s out to get them first.
Y’know, for all that I love speculative fiction, and for all my background in information technology, I have to admit that cyberpunk is probably one of my least explored subgenres. I mean, I’ve read all the requisite Gibson and Stephenson (I’mma let you finish, but The Diamond Age is one of the best novels of all time,) but J T Nicholas’ Re-Coil might be my first experience with cyberpunk in outer space. At the very least, it’s my most memorable, probably by dint of how wonderfully earned that ending felt! You know that I love me some space operas and military sci-fi and first contacts, but this might be the first book that opens me to the prospect of actively seeking out more entertainment to do with wetware hacking (in space!) That might sound weirdly specific, but covers a lot involving cloning and artificial intelligence, none of which I’ve really cared about with the exception of the gone-too-soon Almost Human. Gosh, it’s hard to talk about how this novel slips neatly in and out of sci-fi subgenres without ruining the surprises in store for you, but Re-Coil is a surprisingly fast and fun book, considering how deliberately ponderous it needs to be. Mr Nicholas grounds his tech in reality, so it takes hours to breach a hull, for example, and space walks are incredibly risky propositions. And it’s not just the tech that’s well thought out: the effects of transhumanism on society, eradicating certain prejudices while reinforcing class consciousness, feels like a natural progression, even as Shay struggles to reconcile her identity with the new form she’s been given. It’s hard to describe how this book, like the coil Carter wears for most of the proceedings, manages to be so heavy and deft at the same time. I’m a fan, tho.
We’ve been given the opportunity to participate in the Titan Books’ blog tour for Re-Coil, so look for our interview with Mr Nicholas on the 12th! In the meantime, check out some of the other cool stops on the tour with the handy-dandy infographic.