Under the Amoral Bridgeby Gary Ballard
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Artemis Bridge is the know-who, go-to guy, the amoral fixer in 2028 Los Angeles with the connection for any illicit desire no matter how depraved. You need it, he can get it without questions or judgment. He prides himself on staying detached from the depravity, untouched by the filth, untouchable by the law. When a young hacker is assassinated before his eyes, he is burdened with a scandalous video of the mayor on the eve of the city's most important election of the century. With digital assassins and murderous thugs dogging his every step, he has only days before the corrupt mayor is re-elected, handing the Chronosoft Corporation complete control of the city. Unable to sell the video, he is forced further into a complex conspiracy. This taut futuristic thriller is the debut novel by Gary A. Ballard, a rising new talent in the cyberpunk genre. The eBook edition includes the previously unpublished short story "Feeding Autonomy."
Meet the Author
I began writing things down at the age of eleven, and I haven't stopped since. I have written far too many things that have gone unpublished, from very terrible horror novels in my teens, to comics during my time at Belhaven College until finally settling on cyberpunk science fiction after graduation. My first novel (Under the Amoral Bridge) is part of a larger series called The Bridge Chronicles, which I reveal in weekly updates on the blog at http://amoralbridge.blogspot.com. The Bridge Chronicles in turn is one slice of cohesive universe that began as a pen-and-paper roleplaying game. I currently live with my beautiful wife and three very insane dogs in Mississippi, where I continue to write my novels and blog on my personal blog at http://gameangst.blogspot.com.
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Under the Amoral Bridge is a brilliant example of an independently published novel gone right. Originally published as an online serial in a promotional blog, the story is set in cyberpunk Los Angeles in the late 2020s. Artemis Bridge takes his name from his job--he's the guy that knows a guy. He doesn't touch anything dirty with his own hands, but he'll hook you up with someone who can do it. As one of the minor characters complains in the book, "*I* have a douchebag detector. Artie's is broken." The story revolves around a bit of information too hot to handle falling into Bridge's hands . . . and then he can't get rid of it. Ballard's cyberpunk future is convincing, being near-term enough that we can imagine how it evolved from present-day conditions. At the same time, it contains cyberpunk staples such as computers you plug directly into your brain, cybernetic body parts, and neo-imperialism at its finest (in which corporate entities have begun to take the place of governments). The characters are engaging--the minor characters sometimes more so than Bridge. Which doesn't mean he's unlikable, for all the moral grey area of his job. Rather, Bridge doesn't think he's anybody special, but he's surrounded by these fascinating minor characters who see something in him that he doesn't see himself. The book has a reasonably engaging plot and effective pacing, though both could be just a little sharper. More than that, it does exactly what it was designed to do, according to the author: it creates a world and a situation I want to know more about. The line between the Haves and the Have-Nots has continued to grow, creating a sociopolitical disaster that does not ignore economics, racial tensions, or the continued impact of the Internet on everyday life. My understanding is that the writer is trying to sell another series of books set in the same world, and I wish him the greatest success, because I'd sure like to read them. Under the Amoral Bridge does suffer from some of the sins first novels often do, lacking just a little polish that will come with time. It also has a minor case of needs-a-better-editor, to the tune of the occasional punctuation or grammar thing that will bug the heck out of pedants like me, and which most people will never notice. With that said, although I noticed those errors, they weren't enough to stop me from reading--and my tolerance is very low. I can't imagine anyone tuning out on that basis. This is a solid novel I could happily have paid five or six dollars for and felt like it was money well spent.
I was a little worried that I'd get lost in a book filled with technical jargon, but Mr. Ballard did a fantastic job of giving me enough information that I understood the premise without overwhelming me with techie speak. The fast, action packed plot kept me turning pages well into the night.