Friday, July 1, 2016

Frayed, by Kerry Nietz

Has it really been nearly 5 years since I first read Kerry Nietz's A Star Curiously Singing?  Yes, but the story has stuck with me, as has whole DarkTrench trilogy.  Now Nietz has returned to the world of Sandfly and HardCandy in Frayed.  Nietz writes great future tech, tells a great story, and creates great characters.  Debuggers Sandfly and HardCandy have cameos in Frayed, but the story revolves around a new character, a debugger named ThreadBare. 

Like his cohorts, Thread is the property of the Imam.  He is human, but has been enhanced so that he is able to stream with machines and specializes in fixing and debugging them.  As a debugger, he is inhibited by "stops" that give him painful reminders if his thoughts or actions wander away from total obedience to his master or Sharia law.

After years of contentedly fixing machines in his garage, he is relocated to serve at the palace of the Imam's son.  The prince is a powerful, sadistic master who considers the moral laws of the religion of A (whose name is never spelled out in Frayed) to be optional for royalty.  The prince puts Thread in morally tenuous situations, where his implant's obligation to obey comes into conflict with some deeper sense of right and wrong.  To further complicate matters, one of the prince's concubines reaches out in friendship to Thread, stirring other forbidden feelings.

With Thread's moral conundrums, Frayed begins to hint at spiritual themes.  As readers of the DarkTrench trilogy will recall, in this world Christianity has been totally eradicated, with Islam now ruling the world.  The religious-political background frames Thread's struggles nicely without heavy-handed back story, and the hints of political conflict and war set up the struggles on a larger, society-wide scale.  Frayed is book 1 of the "DarkTrench Shadow Series."  I am already looking forward to the continuation of this new series and anticipate its dovetailing with the Sandfly's adventures in the DarkTrench trilogy.

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