by Robert Boffard
I absolutely love scifi that creates worlds that are grungy and derelict rather than shiny and perfect. A bit of grime makes the futuristic technologies feel familiar and mundane, which in turn adds a vividness, that is absent from the standard spotless, hygienic scifi space stations. This added sense of tangibility was one reason that I was so excited to read Tracer. A decrepit space station hovering above a destroyed earth? It sounded like the perfect environment for a fast-paced, gritty thriller. Objectively, I think Tracer carried through with that.
Years ago, the earth erupted into nuclear holocaust, leaving the inhabitants of the Outer Earth space station as the only remnants of humanity. But now even Outer Earth is breaking down, fracturing into politically, and sinking into lawlessness. A growing sect even believes that humanity should voluntarily go extinct. For Riley, these are simply a few additional obstacles in her role as a Tracer, a courier who carries messages and packages from one sector of Outer Earth to another. Riley herself is carefully apolitical; she even considers it part of her policy to never know what is in the packages she carries. But when circumstances force her to peek inside of her cargo, Riley is thrown into a desperate situation that threatens all of Outer Earth.
On paper, Tracer should have been perfect for me. But somehow, I never became invested in the characters or the world. There’s nothing objectively wrong with the characters, but they just never grabbed me. Part of my sense of disconnect may be due to the narrative style, as I find first-person present peculiarly unnatural and artificial. Part of the story is also narrated from the perspective of the villains, and somehow this made the story feel all the more artificial to me. Even getting the world from their perspective failed to make their motivations seem real to me. The plot, too, should have been exciting, but the events felt so forced and unrealistic to me that I just somehow never became invested in the characters’ circumstances.(show spoiler)
Honestly, the plot is so full of nonsensical actions and self-destructive idiots that I was simply unable to suspend sufficient disbelief.
Overall, Tracer is an entertaining enough story. If you can get past the plotholes and problematic character motivations, I think the breakneck pace and action-filled plot could be a lot of fun.
I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Redhook Books, in exchange for my honest review.