What do you get when you cross Resident Evil with Cyberpunk 2020? Let’s find out by hacking into Necrotech, by K. C. Alexander.
Street thug Riko has some serious issues — memories wiped, reputation tanked, girlfriend turned into a tech-fueled zombie. And the only people who can help are the mercenaries who think she screwed them over.
In an apathetic society devoid of ethics or regulation, where fusing tech and flesh can mean a killing edge or a killer conversion, a massive conspiracy is unfolding that will alter the course of the human condition forever. With corporate meatheads on her ass and a necro-tech blight between her and salvation, Riko is going to have to fight meaner, work smarter, and push harder than she’s ever had to. And that’s just to make it through the day.
I’m always up for a good cyberpunk story. But once you’ve read enough of them, they all start to fell kind of same-y. The same mega-cities sprawl across the same environmentally devastated wastelands, the same lawless hackers fight against the same corrupt corporate authorities, the same gang members menace civilians with the same cybernetic enhancements. Realistically speaking, nothing’s going to top Snow Crash in its little niche, so any new cyberpunk story hoping to stand out better bring something fresh to the table.
Bring on the techno-zombies.
One of the major themes of cyberpunk has always been cybernetic transhumanism; the melding of technology to flesh, and the consequences for the human condition. Necrotech is about what happens when people have so many cybernetic implants that the processing power of the tech in their bodies exceeds that of their meat brains, and programming starts flowing the other way. Each shiny new enhancement increases the risk; but it’s hard to get by as merely human when everyone else is using tech to give them an edge, so there’s always pressure to push the envelope just a little bit further.
I mentioned in the opening that this feels like a combination of Cyberpunk (the tabletop game) and Resident Evil (the movie adaptation). And let me stop you right there – I know the movie has a bad reputation, but I actually thought it was decent. So sue me. In any case, the setting is straight out of Cyberpunk. I’m not just talking about your general cyberpunk tropes – of course the corporations are evil, obviously; that’s every cyberpunk story ever – but certain specific details. For instance, augmentation to the human body coming at the price of one’s humanity, with each enhancement increasing your risk of going Cyber Psycho – or necrotech, as the case may be. I’m pretty sure Cyberpunk even uses the same “SINless” pun for citizens without a Security Identification Number which gives this book series its name. From Resident Evil, then, comes the premise: after waking up with missing memories, our badass female protagonist’s quest for the truth leads her to a zombie-filled secret lab. Neither element stands as unique on its own; but in combination, they make for a new and interesting story.
On top of which, Necrotech presents a very compelling lead character. Riko takes your typical cyberpunk protagonist, an anti-authoritarian rebel on the margins of society, and adds a massive violent streak. Cyberpunk anti-heroes are usually hacker; Riko works with a team of hackers, but her personal specialty is hacking people into pieces. Sometimes you just want to take a break from cool, calm, collected, and reasonable heroes and read about a bundle of barely-contained rage whose first impulse in any situation is to punch somebody’s face in. It may put her at a disadvantage when comes to unraveling the mystery surrounding her memory loss, but it sure comes in handy once the zombies start popping up.
And to top it all off, Riko’s bisexual and currently has a girlfriend. You’ve probably noticed by now that I often complain about how hard it is to find good books with LGBTQ+ protagonists. Maybe this will finally be the one, the holy grail I have quested after so long: an epic story featuring a protagonist in a lesbian relationship which ends happily.
…Oh, wait, never mind – the girlfriend dies in the second chapter. Go ahead and tally up one more Dead Lesbian Penalty. Sigh.
Well, if it hadn’t gone for the kill-the-gays cliche, I would have ranked it as great; but even with that mark against it, the setting, plot, and characters are interesting enough that it’s still good.
Final Rating: 3/5