K.B. Spangler lives in North Carolina with her husband, Brown, and as many Rottweilers as she can sneak in the house without his noticing.
State Machineby K.B. Spangler
Nearly a year has passed since the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Enhancement Technologies went public. Agent Rachel Peng has adapted to her new life as the cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, but for Peng and her team, murder is usually just the beginning. This time, the body is found in the unlikeliest of places, and the race to
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Nearly a year has passed since the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Enhancement Technologies went public. Agent Rachel Peng has adapted to her new life as the cyborg liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police, but for Peng and her team, murder is usually just the beginning. This time, the body is found in the unlikeliest of places, and the race to recover a stolen piece of antiquity will put Rachel and her team against one of the country's most powerful political figures.
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State Machine is book 3 of the Rachel Peng series. I especially recommend reading this series in order, for though Spangler does do small, narratively appropriate summaries in each book, you’ll have an unnecessarily long time of catching up if you start with State Machine. State Machine pushes Rachel in ways the other two books did not. And Rachel needs to be pushed against as many boundaries as possible because she’s so reluctant to push them and she’s best in the thick of things. This time, it’s actually a pretty straight-forward crime. What’s weird are all the situations Rachel finds herself in. Why was she called to investigate a crime in the White House? Why are political bigwigs/leaders approaching her, not her bosses? SINCE WHEN DID A BROKEN LUMP OF OBSCURE MATERIAL/ORIGIN MERIT MURDER? Rachel is confused. Confused Rachel is a lot more fun. Part of the reason confused Rachel is such great fun is because it leads her to consult a varied cast of experts. Some of them are expert cyborgs, others are expert cops, more are experts in all things geek, but all of them are a joy to be around. Mark Hill got a lot of time in this book. He and Rachel are both gifted interrogators. The rapport that comes from this shared talent and similar military histories is wonderful. Phil, Jason, Santino, Mako, and Zockinski are all back in full and glorious form, too. It makes for a wonderful series in which the core cast of characters is so solidly enjoyable, but the rotating cast of characters is nothing to sneeze at, either. One of Spangler’s talents is in memorable, compelling characters of all types and involvement. I found myself missing tertiary characters from the previous novels and hoping that some of the tertiary characters in State Machine might be coming back. Another part of the reason that confused Rachel is a better Rachel is that she functions on instinct. And that instinctual, reactive behavior is often hilarious and intense, but it also has the potential to go very, VERY wrong. I love that Rachel is deeply fallible. Her instincts serve her well a goodly portion of the time, but sometimes they’re dead wrong. The fact that Rachel realizes that means she’s growing in the books, and I love her for it. As always, I must mention how refreshing it is to see a diversity of race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc, so seamlessly and thoroughly melded into a script. In the tiringly white, straight entertainment world, Spangler’s multi-dimensional cast is a sweet relief, and makes for a much more enjoyable experience than standard, popular fiction fare. That the main character is female, Chinese-American, and a lesbian (AND NO ONE – in world – GIVES A FLIP) is all the more precious to me, as a reader. I will say, sometimes Spangler can be a bit hard to follow from conclusion to conclusion. Not that she lacks a certain clarity, but because I am convinced she wants the reader to conclude for themselves. Imagine a chasm just broad enough for you to have to stretch to leap across – that’s much what the reading experience is like. All in all, what I love most about the books keeps coming back in new and interesting ways. Spangler never disappoints. A+ (flawed but improving main character, excellent secondary characters, new situations with brilliant continuity, intrinsic diversity, complex political and moral discussions; no trans characters, occasionally difficult to track the thought processes)