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Frayed (DarkTrench Shadow) (Volume 1) Paperback – June 22, 2016
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"Frayed is a deep, intense and dark novel that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and biting your nails."
About the Author
Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits, first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates's minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He is the author of several award-winning novels, including A Star Curiously Singing, Freeheads, and Amish Vampires in Space.
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Like his cohorts, Thread is the property of the Imam. He is human, but has been enhanced so that he is able to stream with machines and specializes in fixing and debugging them. As a debugger, he is inhibited by "stops" that give him painful reminders if his thoughts or actions wander away from total obedience to his master or Sharia law.
After years of contentedly fixing machines in his garage, he is relocated to serve at the palace of the Imam's son. The prince is a powerful, sadistic master who considers the moral laws of the religion of A (whose name is never spelled out in Frayed) to be optional for royalty. The prince puts Thread in morally tenuous situations, where his implant's obligation to obey comes into conflict with some deeper sense of right and wrong. To further complicate matters, one of the prince's concubines reaches out in friendship to Thread, stirring other forbidden feelings.
With Thread's moral conundrums, Frayed begins to hint at spiritual themes. As readers of the DarkTrench trilogy will recall, in this world Christianity has been totally eradicated, with Islam now ruling the world. The religious-political background frames Thread's struggles nicely without heavy-handed back story, and the hints of political conflict and war set up the struggles on a larger, society-wide scale. Frayed is book 1 of the "DarkTrench Shadow Series." I am already looking forward to the continuation of this new series and anticipate its dovetailing with the Sandfly's adventures in the DarkTrench trilogy.
Then his dreams are answered. Promoted with a level twelve upgrade, ThreadBare finds himself the only debugger within the extensive and expensive household of the Imam's son, Aadam. A prince of the religious realm, Aadam is vicious, worldly, and nasty. As the son of the Imam, Aadam is above the restrictive Sharia laws governing the populace. He flaunts his worldly tastes among the house servants, guards, and concubines, abusing any and all of them as the whim takes him. He often resorts to prince parties, as ThreadBare secretly calls them, where the house robots are often either destroyed or severely damaged by Aadam's antics.
Taken even deeper into the prince's confidence, ThreadBare finds himself introduced to prisoner torture within the mansion's basement. This is where the prince interrogates his own people who cause him problems or don't carry out his impossible wishes. They are often tortured as fight companions to the prince's battle 'bots. ThreadBare finds himself witnessing these fights, and sometimes, even having to drive the 'bot against the defenseless prisoners. ThreadBare finds himself almost torn apart from these ordeals. Once Aadam is finished with his fun, ThreadBare has to repair any damage the prince caused the 'bots. The prisoners are left to themselves--to heal and recover, or to die from their injuries.
Overall, the story is a lively mix of wants, dreams, and dehumanizing rewards, all trampled underneath a repressive, worldwide religion. The story moves along at a steady and engrossing pace, carrying the reader along. At times, the story reminded this Reviewer of the oppressive world of Moses and the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, driving the Israelite slaves into the harsh, Egyptian ground. Vicious, degraded, and ruled by personal vice, the character of Aadam draws a similar parallel. Though, in no way, does Threadbare resemble Moses.
This story is family-friendly and highly recommended.