This is an amazingly infectious sci-fi thriller for all sorts of reasons. For one, the author did his homework. While many outside the community of sci-fi authors may not realize this (as it is more our job to keep up with trends than it is the reader’s), the age of DIY (Do-it-Yourself) drugs which can be printed off in your own home is virtually upon us. They’ve already mastered the general concept; they’re just ironing out the tweaks for roll out on a mass consumer scale. And, as you can imagine, the strong likelihood that this singular development will revolutionize not only our world but our entire sense of reality is undeniable. But what good fortune for you; you don’t have to imagine the consequences. This author does so with an impeccable sense of realism. So much so that I venture to say that even if sci-fi thrillers really aren’t your thing, you’ll find this book very hard to put down.
I haven’t read sci-fi that felt this real, and I haven’t been given a chance to view a future that felt this inescapable since Blade Runner. Ink, Inc. is written with the same sense of uncompromising grittiness, only it’s that much more realistic, and has some other advantages over the far more well-known predecessor. Not the least of which is the fact that the novel rockets along at hyperspace speeds from the first page and never lets up. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even count that as necessarily a good thing. As even a fast paced, action-thriller should have moments that allow the reader to catch his breath. Fair warning, there are no breath-catching moments to be found in this novel.
What makes the author’s tweaking of the formulas work to accommodate his relentless pacing is his remarkable ability to develop character and a B-story love interest, along with compelling character dynamics—without coming out of jet mode and slowing the story down to even accommodate for wind resistance. Again, reaching for parallels here, the last time a storyteller married character development to action so well without slowing the forward movement was Steven Spielberg with his Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise. Considering the genre this book is in, perhaps more pertinent comparisons are to Transformers 1, and I, Robot. And if you’re wondering why I’m not making book comparisons is this book reads suspiciously like a movie. I’d say if he’s trying to bait Hollywood, he succeeded, at least in the mind of this reviewer.
Now, for the challenges, as we writers all have flaws, and so, not surprisingly, do our novels. For starters, do not read this book at the end of your day, when you’re tired. If your concentration lapses for even a second, you’ll find yourself having to retrace your steps. There’s that much going on packed into that few pages. I’ve often been accused of the same reader-challenge as a writer, but I didn’t truly get what people meant until I read this guy. Mind you, if you are tired when you approach this book, it might energize you in a hurry, lol. Moving on down the list… if you like feel-good, positive sci-fi and worlds you wouldn’t mind leaving this one for, this isn’t it. This borders on apocalyptic sci-fi in just how dark and dreary this world is. The only thing that keeps this future from being totally depressing may well be the aforementioned adrenaline-stoked pacing of the storytelling.
There were moments when I felt I would like to have been transitioned from one action element to the other better in terms of being able to visualize the nitty-gritty of what was going on more cleanly. Just moments. For the most part, he handles this aspect of the storytelling well also. Moreover, you have to love mash-ups and genre benders as I do, because this is a sci-fi-action-thriller. But as fusions go, this one is famous for working quite well, if you’ll recall the Alien franchise with Sigourney Weaver.
For such a gripping alternate reality, and especially for such a turbo-charged story, this book ends far too quickly. I found this world absorbing enough to get lost in if the word count was double or triple what it was. Maybe he’ll consider meeting me halfway by serializing this thing. That said, to the author’s credit, instead of feeling like a novella, because he does cover so much ground in so little time, it feels like a more robust book of greater page count. And while we’re on the subject, it’s no mean feat to do this much world-building in so little space without doing data dumps, or overwhelming the reader or slowing the story down. The writer spoon-feeds us information dazzlingly well not only to contribute to the page-turning effect, but to make sure we can absorb every juicy morsel of detail.
A couple last innocuous comments: If you’re claustrophobic or agoraphobic, don’t read this book, lol, as it frequently alternates between both extremes. Ink, Inc. is written in the spirit of the movies In Time, and Equilibrium, and those sci-fi stories that change just one thing to change the world. This is at the opposite end of the spectrum from David Brin’s Existence which attempts to ask what if everything about our world changed.