Total Eclipse (Kate Devana)
A hugely welcome prequel to The Orionids, Wyatt Werne’s rip-roaring, action-packed, and perplexing near-future science fiction/crime fiction mashup, which introduced intrepid lunar law(wo)man Kate Devana, Total Eclipse elucidates the criminal mischief that caused Kate to reluctantly return to the Moon colony, even knowing that it’s “like the new Wild West.”
Surprisingly, it’s a personal request from the CEO of Lunar Foundries that she investigate the theft of silicon wafers—worth tens of millions when divided into the numerous microchips that comprise them—that launches Kate back to the Moon and back to an often frustrating career as Head of Security in the off-world billionaires’ playground. However, it soon becomes clear that there are more nefarious things afoot than mere financial crime.
A sardonic stripper with a fondness for reading and a tendency to be slightly irritated by the vagaries of human emotion, Zia is “a level 4 artificial intelligence housed in an aluminum and silicone frame with a layer of regenerative flesh over [her] sex organs.” She liked the way the club was run before Adrik took over, but she’s unwilling to undergo the months of nothingness necessary for an AI to be reprogrammed for a new purpose, not even with the support of her family.
While Zia suspects that Adrik wants to fire her, he actually promotes her to “special projects”—and her first project involves acting as the paid companion of a Lunar Foundries engineer who is a regular at the club and who has some important merchandise he wants to sell. It certainly sounds like a setup, and when Zia proves to be far from the engineer’s type, she has to leverage her superior intellect to engage in a spot of blackmail, double-dealing, and carefully choreographed violence to keep herself and those close to her safe.
As the machinations of the various parties interested in the microchips are slowly revealed, Total Eclipse presents another high-octane and complexly twisted case for Kate Devana and her new partner, the youthful-looking Cris Davis, to crack. The fact that events unfold on the Moon means that the crime aspects of the story have the classic “closed circle” of suspects setup. Indeed, there is no local police force and the Feds take 36 hours to arrive now that budget cuts mean they can only travel economy from Earth.
Moreover, as the story is set in the relatively near future of 2073, the science fiction aspects are both strange and strangely plausible. For instance, aside from being a sex robot who can change every element of her appearance through downloading modifications, Zia can route her voice through a mobile phone so that she can talk covertly while in a noisy crowd. Such things are not possible at the moment, but they certainly could be at some point, which has various disturbing implications.
Wyatt Werne’s world-building is exceptionally good in this regard, highlighting how the more things change, the more they stay the same. The concept of the lunar colony suggests advanced thinking and remarkable scientific innovation, while the idea of the Eclipse festival implies the best of the social side of humanity and the joy of travel, but in reality, the whole thing is grotty and corrupt. It’s really no wonder that Kate is so cynical. Fortunately, she’s also an exceptional sleuth and a dab hand with a weapon.
All together, Total Eclipse is a highly imaginative and unusual crime caper set in a futuristic world where even the familiar is strangely disorientating. It’s a whole lot of fun to follow Kate as she kicks butts and takes names while working her way across the Moon colony in search of the missing microchips and those seeking to profit from them, and it’s impossible not to root for Zia as she applies her unique brand of logic to the problem of freeing herself from Adrik and ensuring the safety of her family.
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