- File Size: 2751 KB
- Print Length: 369 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0984737588
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publication Date: May 6, 2015
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00XB7ITSE
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#428,389 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
- #374 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction
- #1250 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Technothrillers
- #1867 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Technothrillers
|Print List Price:||$12.99|
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State Machine (Rachel Peng Book 3) Kindle Edition
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The web comic started in 2006, with a quirky, minimalistic art style and really interesting storytelling, a mildly science-fantasy flavored story about a scatterbrained but brilliant woman who has been befriended by the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, and the nearly emotionless, monolith of a federal agent assigned to watch her when her name appears on a terrorist watch list.
Spangler went through her archives and re-drew the first year or so of the story, revising the storytelling to reflect her improvement as a writer and to get rid of unnecessarily 'cute' or overly-timely bits. You can still find the older art and story under the 'flip arrow' in the corner of the comics. It's a bit of a jolt when you get to the end of the 'redrawn' part because there's about six months' worth (at slightly over one comic page per week) between the end of the redrawn part and the point where Spangler changes to her new art style.
If you want to read it, you can find it at www.agirlandherfed.com -- but be warned, it can eat up a day or two of your time, catching up. The storytelling in the comic is every bit as good as in the book, and you can see her developing as a writer.
The science fantasy element continues to develop in the books and in the web comic, and because it's been happening since 2006, there are a few minor inconsistencies and 'gotchas' that Spangler acknowledges. Further, not everything is seen from a single point-of-view, and that means that not everything is going to look the same.
Technically, Spangler is an exceptionally good writer. She has minimal misspellings, wrong-homonyms, and grammatical glitches, and avoids the trap of telling rather than showing through her story narration. This is especially important since each book contains a mystery, appropriately to Rachel Peng's job as a detective with the Washington DC Metro Police. There are very few (if any) missing threads, each character is presented as a person with multiple facets, even when they're a walk-on, and there is a strong sense of place and continuity between the events in this book and the two previous books and the web comic - there are a few 'call-outs' to insider secrets from the web comic that are not seen in these books that web comic readers will immediately recognize, but since our protagonist and her compatriots do not know those secrets, they simply don't have any effect on what the characters in the book actually see or understand.
She writes political context into her stories, without revealing an untoward inclination in any specific direction. Her dry wit strikes both conservative and liberal thought the lens of her characters. However, it's important to know that the protagonist, and the special agency she is part of, all exist as a part of a conspiracy, headed by one person who starts as a wealthy industrialist who moves into politics to further his conspiracy. The conspiracy is to create human weapons, using a computer chip and advanced science that connects into the brains of these weapons, giving them a sort of super-access to computers and machines via an energy frequency nobody quite understands yet. It's this cyborg nature that gives Rachel her special gifts and handicaps. The conspiracy used an intrusive, obnoxious interface that responded to emotions to force the agents into a state of emotional withdrawal, then abused prescription psychoactive drugs to 'treat' them and force them further down. The reason for this: to create absolutely obedient, emotionless, unquestioning weapons who would do what their controllers told them. How that failed, is not part of the three books, which deal with the aftermath: an agency of 400 people who are intimately connected as a 'family' and who now have to make sure that they cannot be abused and misused. Because these people are patriots - every one of them volunteered for the operation, though they were lied to about the outcome.
A warning about this book and the other two, and the comic: it's written for adults. Not "young adults" - if your 14 year old (or you, for that matter) can't think about sex between characters as being something that happens, that may be humorous or horrible or wonderful, or simply a thing that gets mentioned, then you won't want that person reading this, lest they encounter ideas that might make them think differently.
People die. People get shot. There's injustice that doesn't get resolved. There's moral ambiguity, and moral standard, and intelligent thought and discussion between characters about what ethics are good, what government can and should do, and what the nature of responsibility is, on a personal, corporate, business, and government level (for a variety of government agencies.) This is a peculiarly American book as well - the flaws and the strengths of our country, the topics of terrorism, conspiracy, and individual rights and responsibilities, are examined overtly and covertly.
There's also adult language, and there may be a few dirty words. There may even be creative use of new ones.
You should read this book.
In case you were wondering where the title "State Machine" fits in, it has a double meaning. It refers both to an ancient Greek computing device, the Antikythera mechanism, and to the operations of the government. The White House theft was linked to the Antikythera mechanism, which figures calendars and positions of the stars and planets. The second part has more to do with how the stars align in Congress with respect to the status of OACET and the cyborgs. Do the cyborgs need to give up some of their capabilities in order to assure Congress and the public that they are not a menace? What would have to be done to the cyborg technology to make its benefits available to the public without the (arguably) undesirable side effect of creating a much larger collective consciousness? These policy questions loom large.
Bottom line: If you've read the preceding Rachel Peng novels, this one will be quite familiar. I found it a bit repetitive and a bit draggy in parts, but it was largely enjoyable, and I appreciate Spangler's attempts to think through some of the issues associated with brain augmentation as well as the perennial "How can we tolerate the mutants among us?" issues that plague "special" people throughout the universes of comics. Recommended to veterans; newbies should begin either with the first Rachel Peng novel, "Digital Divide", or, better yet, the online comic "A Girl and Her Fed," which, though substantially sillier than the novels, provides a good deal of background you won't find elsewhere.
Spangler's heroine and her fellow Agents care deeply about those questions, not only out of patriotism but also as a matter of survival, and I finished the book with a new appreciation for them as well. The close third-person narration and a warm (and occasionally sarcastic) sense of humor kept me inside Rachel's head, cheering on her successes and sympathetic to her failures.
State Machine is entertaining, thought-provoking, and highly relevant to today's technological and legal issues.
Most recent customer reviews
Robot wait I needed 5 more words.