Cons: Over-explaining at first
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review ebook provided free by publisher for this review.
There are people who can warp reality (called ‘Irrationals’), and whenever they do, dark beings try to lock on and come into our world. Thankfully there are sleeper agents who get activated when danger’s afoot. Michael Bishop is one of three agents sent to check some very strange readouts in the middle of nowhere. What they find will challenge their exceptional abilities, and quite possibly rip a hole into our reality, killing who-knows-how-many people.
Rationality Zero, by JM Guillen, started off a little rocky and I thought I wasn’t going to like it much. While it’s good to get details of the universe early on, the author over-explained a lot of things. It felt as though he was warming up for the ‘real’ story. There were also a few details I couldn’t understand–if the team’s Designate can pass her orders on to them via speaking with them mind-to-mind using their electronic implants, then why did she feel it necessary to get on a bus with the main character and sit opposite him while doing the mind-speech thing for the whole team? There are a few details like this that seem unnecessary, unproductive, or even counter-productive. I still don’t understand why they feel it necessary to have sleeper agents rather than just agents; it seemed more complicated and costly.
Once the plot grew tense, most of the things that I disliked went away. There’s plenty of fast-paced action as our heroes fall into a trap, find what they’re looking for, and try to figure out and solve what’s going on without dying. Their own tech seems to mimic some of the reality-bending abilities of the Irrationals, which is rather fascinating–apparently the agents are allowed to bend reality as long as it’s in the form of technology and in the service of their masters.
The dynamics of the good guy team were fun; each character had his or her own role and personality. I did have a couple of moments of “why didn’t they do X?”, but in general they did a good job. The tech feels more like “science fantasy” than straight science fiction, but not in a bad way.
Overall I’m glad I read Rationality Zero, and I would probably read a sequel if it came across my desk.
[Pet peeve post-script: One quote read, “She tasted like fire and secrets.” It’s one of those things made to sound cool, while communicating no useful information whatsoever. (What do secrets taste like?) An old editor friend used to ding me for that sort of thing, so naturally it has become a pet peeve.]
[NOTE for tabletop roleplayers who may have played White Wolf’s old “Mage: the Ascension”: Think of Rationality Zero as Technocracy vs. Nephandi, with the Technocracy as the protagonists.]