In the year 2038, an act of bioengineered terrorism decimated humanity. Those who survived were either completely unaffected or developed horrible mutations. Across the globe, nations are now divided between areas populated by “norms” and lands run by “mutants”…
Detective Cassandra Lee of Los Angeles’s Special Investigative Section has built a fierce reputation taking down some of the city’s most notorious criminals. But the serial cop killer known as Bonebreaker—who murdered Lee’s father—is still at large. Officially, she’s too personally involved to work on the Bonebreaker case. Unofficially, she’s going to hunt him to the ends of the earth.
In the meantime, duty calls when the daughter of Bishop Screed, head of the Church of Human Purity, is kidnapped by mutants and taken into the red zone to be used for breeding. Assigned to rescue her, Lee must trust her new partner—mutant lawman Deputy Ras Omo—to guide her not only through the unfamiliar territory but through the prejudicial divisions between mutants and norms…
I confess when I requested the title my thinking was something like this: “OK, so big name. They’re totally owning it, right? Big name taking on what sounded (and looked) like a Sci-Fi equivalent of female MC Urban Fantasy. Gutsy, different. I wanna try this baby!”
If you got that impression too from reading the blurb and seeing the cover, you’re probably as wrong as I was. If I’d have to describe it, I’d say it’s probably old-school action-focused detective procedural. I don’t mean that in either a positive or negative way. It’s simply to give you what I feel is the right idea about what’s “under the hood”. If you like more old-school writing and action packed futuristic fiction, it’s for you.
The post-apocalyptic kind of world is interesting, with a new world order type of thing that I enjoyed. The virus that wiped out almost half the population provoked mutations to many who got infected but survived – affectionately called “freaks” by some of those uninfected. Some are carriers, some aren’t, and it’s an airborne virus. This must be mentioned because it’s mentioned a few times in the novel, and it helps explain why detective Cassandra Lee, the uninfected main character, does something-something with a “freak” at some point in the novel while they’re wearing masks (it takes protection to a whole other level, lol!), with no kissing, and resulting in quite possibly the most unromantic, even antiromantic, entanglement I’ve read in a while. Call me crazy, but I liked that. It was somehow pragmatic and fact-like. I’m in a bit of an antiromantic mood myself, lol, so for me this totally worked. I liked the different vibe.
So, Cassandra Lee is the main character. Her role is somewhat unsurprising; we’ve all seen the cop with a dead something (parent, child, spouse, sibling) who becomes obsessed with solving that murder case, right? Well, that’s Lee. She’s a detective for the LAPD with the odd habit of having her partners kind of die on her. (Some in what I’d call stupidoid conditions, almost shocking considering who and what said partners are – elite detectives. You’ll understand why I say this when you get to I think Chapter 2, and read what happens to Conti. I didn’t really get what the point of that was. “Humanizing” Lee, making the reader empathize with her? For me it didn’t work that way.)
Then comes Omo, a “freak” detective in to assist Lee with looking into the kidnapping of a prominent Pacifica dude’s daughter. This guy I liked. I can’t say his personality stood out too much, but what did stand out was how the “freak” thing affected him. I liked the way that issue was presented, the discrimination that goes on in this futuristic world. To be clear, I didn’t like the discrimination, lol, I’m soundly against it. I liked how William C. Dietz framed that issue. I felt the approach was almost starkly realistic.
The third person, past tense narrative mainly from Lee’s POV had some inserts from other POVs as well. One could argue the input of those characters was most often very short, didn’t shed much light upon something Lee couldn’t have known that was very relevant to the plot, and tended to be more irritating than enlightening. I don’t personally enjoy POV switches at all, head-hopping is tiring, breaks your investment in the story atmosphere and it constantly snaps you out of the story instead of helping the writing “disappear”. Many might find the POV jumps annoying, and I confess I didn’t see their use and didn’t feel they had any positive effect. But maybe that’s just me 🙂
It also needs to be said that the writing style was a bit different from what I’m used to. Nowadays fiction tends to do its best to make the writing “disappear”, meaning it strives to flow smoothly and immerse you into the story, evoke feelings, help you if not push you to empathize with at least the main character if not more of the characters involved. I believe this applies to all commercial genres, it’s a school of thought that has become something of a religion.
Reading Deadeye was a very weird experience because it evoked almost no emotion as far as I’m concerned. There were situations that I believe were meant to evoke emotion, the Conti thing, the Omo and Lee development – I mean the circumstances were there. But the approach to actually triggering emotion somehow wasn’t. It’s tough to explain… in a way, I felt emotional situations were somehow approached form a fact/action perspective. The part that made me feel emotion the most was the discrimination thing. But I didn’t feel for Lee as much as I would have liked to.
The plot could have easily made a fan out of me. Lee’s story could have made my heart throb, she had lots of qualities, also flaws, making her an authentic and non-perfect therefore very likable character (for me). The writing style just didn’t win my heart. It’s a subjective view, of course. You might love the style. It fits a police procedural imo, it helps focus on action of which there is plenty, and it makes this a fast paced read. For me though it kind of lacked feels.
All in all, I’d say this was an interesting read. I never once contemplated dropping it, for instance, I wasn’t bored, I didn’t feel the need to skip pages or fast-forward to the end. The story was fast paced and engaging, even if in some points it wasn’t as convincing as it could have been.
If you’re into action movies, futuristic post-plague scenarios, and wild chases, I think this is a novel you’ll enjoy.