21 MARCH 2017 | KAREN KAO
Flesh and Wires is a fun ride. Hard-hitting and fast paced, this scifi novel sets us on a rollercoaster. Aliens invade dystopian America and fragile alliances crumble as men intrude on a world run by wired women.
The last time I read a work of science fiction was in college (Dune by Frank Herbert). Except when it enters my life in the form of a manuscript to critique, as this one did. Full disclosure: author Jackie Hatton and I are members of the same critique group and friends, too. Does this disqualify me to review her book? I think not.
One of the most painful moments in a critique group is when a writer hits a wall. It may be a total writer’s block or the utter conviction that everything you’ve ever written is crap. One of the greatest joys is to watch a writer stand up, dust herself off and go at it again. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to watch Jackie grow as an author. And now a thrill to hold her book in my hands.
Having said that, I do have a point of critique (as always!). I wish there had been time to explore the characters more deeply. There’s the heroine Lo, intrepid leader of the Saugatuck women with considerable anger issues. Her errant brother Will and his double agenda. And my favorite character, the 135 year old alien Lurch, the sexiest male ever to don a bodcoz. I can still remember the heated debate during critique. Should Lurch be given a Russian accent and, if so, how heavy should it be? Would that make him sexier or shade him into the comical? These are the kind of details an author agonizes over.
But scifi isn’t about character psychoanalysis, right? It’s the action and the intergalactic wars and, of course, the gizmos. Interestingly, most of the weapons are wearables. The bodcoz doubles as body armor and comfort station. Lo wears a weapons glove that allows her to bundle her energy into a lethal ray. But the greatest power these wired women possess, is one they cannot remove:
Lo wandered over and stood in front of the mirror, pulling her hair back tight to expose her taut forehead with its mottled ring of silver freckles.
The wires have allowed the women to survive but survival has come at a high price. The social commentary that underpins Flesh and Wires is what does it for me. So yay for the wired women who now rule the Earth. Yay for their portrayal as women who never age and the heartbreak that implies. And yay for Jackie Hatton, hard at work on her second novel, coming to a bookstore near you!