Lex De Mortuis by Matthew S. Cox

Lex De Mortuis by Matthew S. CoxBuilding on the interwoven threads of high-tech dystopia and emergent mental powers from Division Zero, Cox shows the reader one possible answer to the question of religion in a science-fiction world without sacrificing the visceral action of a cyberpunk thriller.

This novel is the second volume in the Division Zero series. Therefore, spoilers loom ahead.

With the trauma of her childhood exorcised and her adoption of Evan – a boy with similar psionic power to her own – proceeding well, Agent Kirsten Wren intends to focus her efforts on settling her dead partner’s affairs. However, when the ghosts of a corporate hit squad develop the ability to harm the living, her personal and professional lives collide again. A situation only made worse when she crosses paths with a criminal who can take over people’s minds.

As with both the previous volume and many of Cox’s other works, this book is fast-paced without being rushed and complex without being convoluted.

However – unlike the cyberpunk with psionics flavour of his other stories in this world – this veers toward fantasy in a technological setting. While the mystical powers displayed are, at their strongest, no greater than those of the protagonists in his Awakened series and are often weaker, the continued question of what happens after death and how Kirsten’s powers fit into that takes the story firmly into the realm of metaphysics and spirituality.

This novel at its heart still embraces the gritty person-focus of the cyberpunk thriller. Kirsten pursues foes with entirely human motivations through the stylish glass mountains of the rich and the derelict sumps of the poor, driven by immediate risks and a desire to protect her closest friends, and aided by allies of circumstance. Therefore, the plot is likely to engage all but the purist of science-fiction readers.

Kirsten continues to be a sympathetic protagonist. Having worked through the issue of her childhood, she lacks many of the unconscious limits, mental and otherwise, displayed in the first volume; however, this theoretical increase in ability brings with it a variety of new challenges, preventing her from losing her sense of vulnerability. Similarly, her happiness at finding Evan is paralleled by lack of experience as a parent.

Evan similarly mixes a greater potential for happiness now he has been rescued with underlying doubts, providing a different perspective on both recovering from past traumas and the issues of power without full understanding.

The supporting cast, whether continuing or new, feel fully rounded and distinct individuals that fit naturally within the world. This is especially noticeable with the ghostly corporate strike team, the members of which each display oddities consistent with having died and then evaded the afterlife but each remain clearly driven by a unique set of human fears and desires.

Overall, I enjoyed this book greatly. I recommend it to readers who enjoy science-fiction that values dramatic thrills over precise technological specifications.

I received a free copy from the author with a request for a fair review.

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