Science fiction as a genre is very vague in its identity. The reason being, there are a plethora of sub-divisions within the sci-fi umbrella, which include space travel, time travel, alien planets, futuristic technology, altered states, multi-verses, wormholes, gritty noir, action, drama, comedy and of course realistic science. With Necrotic City, author Leland Lydecker adds political intrigue to that list, tackling a sub-genre that if done incorrectly, could damage a book’s popularity among particular groups of people. Lydecker, though, balances the heavy political material with enough tension and foresight as to allow each reader to utilize the lens of their own predilections to guide them in how the story unfolds and how they ultimately feel about the characters, what they do when confronted with certain decisions, what to take away from the story, and how it relates to the society we currently live and society as a whole.
The story revolves around Adrian, a genetically- and robotically-enhanced human, known as a Hero, bred to protect the citizens of Necrotic City. Controlled by the Company, the city has been divided into several “tiers”, the top tiers of which are designated for the wealthy and most affluent members of the community, while the lower you go, the more downtrodden the public becomes to the point in which a wall was built to exclude a number of tiers because they were no longer worth their time, money or influence.
During a routine patrol of one of the lower tiers, Adrian is caught in the destruction of a housing complex. At the same time, due mostly to the amount of citizens he’s saved, he’s also one of five heroes nominated to become the Prime Hero. Griffith, his main competitor, though, wishes to change the structure of the city, merging the Hero division in with the Enforcers — those that are able to arrest, judge and terminate citizens when necessary. After losing the election to Griffith, and seeing the widespread dissent and destruction, Adrian is reassigned to private citizen protection, and must decide whether he wants to continue living under the new rule of law, or discover something new hidden in the depths of the city.
Lydecker does a good job in setting up our hero, giving us someone we all can relate to while showing us how he operates on different levels, both physically and emotionally. With a heightened level of integrity, Adrian would die to protect any citizen, no matter their station, he has a high level of physical and mental strength, as well as a heart that shows he’s not so by-the-books strict that he must follow the rules by the letter, but will allow some leeway in situations he deems insignificant. Lydecker also sets up a lot of well-crafted secondary characters that are fun and interesting and fit well into the story.
What Lydecker doesn’t seem to do as well is set up the structure of the city itself. There are a lot of terms that are used to differentiate the classes of people, but how the city is actually set up was never quite clear to me, so trying to visualize how things are built in order to follow the action correctly did get a little frustrating. The good thing is, because the characters are set up so well, after awhile, it doesn’t seem to matter as much because you’re so invested in what’s happening and what will happen to these characters that the layout of the city becomes inconsequential to what’s actually happening.
The pace of the book is also a bit of a mixed bag. There is so much mundane action that set up the characters but don’t do much else in the first few chapters, that the story gets a bit sluggish and I kept wondering if anything important was ever going to happen. But then Adrian is nominated for the Prime Hero role and the political intrigue begins to really take over, adding a new level of intensity that was missing from the first third of the book. Then, halfway through, Lydecker begins burning through a lot of meaty ideas to try and reach the end quicker, making everything feel far too rushed.
Characters get in and out of situations quicker than they should and the setups take more time than the payoff, as if everything is gearing up for something big and then it’s just over and moving on to the next big event that will end just as abruptly. This happens with a few character developments as well, where double-crosses are turned on a dime without much exploration for why they were set up that way in the first place, with one character in particular dying without much fanfare. They’re here, they cause havoc and with the snap of a finger, they’re gone.
Necrotic City isn’t the most well-written sci-fi novel (how many times is Adrian going to wake to begin a chapter?), nor is it a perfectly captured political thriller, but because of Lydecker’s knack for creating a set of interesting and compelling characters (some, like Vey, who Adrian meets late in the novel, I wish I could have seen more of), Necrotic City seamlessly blends the two genres, and I believe that if Lydecker finds a way to balance his pacing a bit better in the future, this is an independent author I would try again to see what’s next in the exploration of genetics, robotics, and political corruption within our society.
My Grade: B+
As a writer and former airline employee, Leland Lydecker’s interests range from the natural world, to space exploration, to technology and medicine, emphasizing genetic engineering, cybernetics and artificial intelligence, all of which help support his preferred writing topics, including crime, extra-judicial justice, corporate corruption and the future of our societies.
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If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list.