In this sequel to Second Chance, Hearn has produced another post-cyberpunk tale that very definitely puts substance over style. While it does not skimp on interesting technology and racing action, this work runs on character not tech-porn.
As this is the second book in a series, this review might contain spoilers for the previous book.
The novel opens two years after the events of Second Chance, with the death of the Prime Delegate’s brother in the Shambles. Caught between being seen to help the authorities and being painted by the authorities as complicit in the death, crime boss Mike O’Driscoll needs to walk a tightrope just to stay still.
At first the appointment of Nico Tandelli, an investigator open to letting O’Driscoll save face, as lead on the murder case seems the break the crime boss needs; however, Nico is carrying out his own covert investigation into a conspiracy within the government, making anyone who works with him an ideal pawn in a secret war.
Having set up the world and characters in Second Chance, Hearn heads straight into new events without the recap prologue some series authors might include. While this does give the reader an immediate sense of immersion, it also leaves them relying on their memory of the previous book for context in some scenes. Hearn’s swift pacing, draw the reader into the plot quickly, confining this potential issue almost entirely to the start of the novel; however, this might reduce the book’s strength as a stand-alone work.
Although it shares a politically charged investigation with the first book, Absent Souls is a larger narrative, both in politics and geography: while retaining a firm presence in a dystopian United Kingdom, Hearn takes the reader into an equally grim United States.
Hearn’s use of multiple viewpoints and flashbacks continues from Second Chance. However, aided to an extent by having revealed key background in the first book, the integration of historical events is very smooth, leaving the reader’s attention firmly on the characters.
Mike O’Driscoll’s transition from supporting character to protagonist is solid. The history and motivations behind his actions show him to be a more complex, sympathetic character than the godfather of Second Chance but do not cross the line into making him appear morally justified or misunderstood.
The portrayal of Nico and other characters who reappear is similarly skilled. Still recognisable from the first book, their personalities have also altered, giving a strong feeling that they have been out in the world and not been sitting in a quiet room for two years.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers seeking an intriguing political conspiracy or dystopian thriller.
I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair review.