Thursday, June 6, 2013

REVIEW: Data Runner by Sam A. Patel

Data Runner Data Runner by Sam A. Patel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hipsters versus evil corporations and their hired thugs. The book read like an action movie but without the plot holes and indigestible contrivances.

+ the characters

The good guys were a bit full of themselves. Parkour was cool. Community was cool. Staying in school and going to college, cool. Hacking and beating the man, guess what? Cool, too. (They never used the word “cool” but the sentiment was apparent.) While I liked that the characters had passion and goals, they went a bit overboard with the enthusiasm. It was a step short of indoctrination. Yes, I get it. Y’all are hipsters. Fortunately, enthusiasm eased up after a few chapters once the plot got going and the characters had no time to extol their interests.

I liked Jack. He was smart, earnest, and decisive, completely worthy of his role as the protagonist. However, I wish Jack was smarter in carrying a gun or some other weapon after he accepted a job that he fully knew was dangerous. Case in point, the news frequently reported that there was a guy was chasing after data runners and chopping off their arms. Hell, I didn’t understand why practically none of the data runners were armed. At least carry some smoke bombs or something. I knew their raison d'ĂȘtre was to run, run, run but they had to have realized that running would not always be an option. What started as an oversight on the protagonist’s part soon became an oversight of the world building. The concept of data runners could have been more developed.

Red Tail was another data runner and Jack’s love interest. I really liked that the romance appeared late at the end and was a minor, almost trivial plot line because it would have distracted the plot and interfered with the characters’ priorities. I also liked how Red Tail never played the role of a damsel in distress for a second, and in fact she played the role of Jack’s rescuer and reluctant mentor. Red Tail was such a kickass heroine that the book could have easily been told in her POV.

Martin was a secondary character and Jack’s father. At first I didn’t like that Jack called his dad by his first name, but I quickly understood why even though the book, which was told in Jack’s 1st person POV, never pointed it out. Martin did not act like a proper father to say the least. What kind of a father gambles away the family’s savings and then silently accepts that his kid has to work a dangerous job to pay off his debts and pretty much shoulder all adult responsibilities? Martin should have known the game was rigged and was a trap given the fact that the gang accepted his admission to the game so easily knowing he was a card counter. The revelations made towards the end explained Martin’s fatherly incompetence, but instead of making his fatherly incompetence understandable they made me think worse of Martin.

The only character that were worse than Martin were the bad guys who were complete stereotypes. They came into two groups: thugs and evil corporate suits.

+ the world building

I didn’t take issue with how black and white the world building was, but I was disappointed by it because the book could have done better, a lot better. For example, practically making all corporations evil, greedy, and bent on world domination, I kid you not the book actually said it, was shallow and gratuitous. Sorting people as good or bad, making it into “either with us or with them” matter, as if each person, especially the “bad guys,” don’t have their own values, simplified the social issues too much to be taken seriously. While I got the points the book made, e.g. fraking is bad, I believe those points would have been sharper if the world building showed some care for the complexity of the issues it raised.

In Conclusion

I rate Data Runner 3-stars for I liked it. As a book that raise social issues, it failed to present complexity, but as a book that entertains, it succeeded. I was also thrilled by the greater than average amount of science fiction elements.

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