Tania Flowers and Carl Orin are lovers and rivals. Both are elite scientists for a super secret lab known only as Basement Five. And both are angling to be the very first cybernaut -- a person whose consciousness is catapulted into cyberspace to explore the world of bytes and bits.
Through chicanery, Carl earns that special honor. But something goes awry. While his physical body is peacefully sleeping in a monitored room in Basement five, his psyche has been lost adrift somewhere in cyberspace. Tania insists on going in to find him. If she can't, his physical body will atrophy and he will lapse into a vegetative state and die.
Tania manages to find Carl alright, but she quickly realizes that they are not the only ones there.
The first sample chapter of this novella gives absolutely no clue about what the story is about. In fact, it is nothing really but an extended erotic love scene. Normally, that would not in anyway prompt me to buy a book. As a matter of fact, it just might do the opposite as my decision to read or buy a book has never been prompted by a sex scene. But the writing was strong enough, even in an erotic love scene, that I was intrigued enough to continue reading the sample. Instead, it was the small, tiny bit of the second chapter made available that hooked me. That was the nugget that gave me a glimpse of the true plot of the story and made me want to read the book.
I thought the author did a really good job of anthropomorphizing the net and data systems. Tania and Carl's brains caused the net to manifest itself as a city, with areas of high bandwith looking like eight-lane highways while low bandwidth looked like a single lane country road. Secure systems looked like impenetrable buildings with no way in, while unsecured networks were houses that you can just walk into he front door.
The author also plays with the concept of time as a computer system can calculate information at a faster rate than normal human consciousness does, so Tania and Carl find themselves adjusting to the pace of cyberspace and it has an interesting effect on their perception. It also has a direct bearing on the plot.
I enjoyed their adventure -- and the story is really an adventure --- that I could see easily translated to a sci-fi action movie. There is even a villain, of sorts.
This is a novella, not a full length novel. I generally do not like novellas since more often than not, I have found that the authors sacrifice a lot of character development and story progression to word count. But just as I have found that Illona Andrews is able to work wonders in this length, so has this author. This is a well paced, self contained story. And there is enough plot/story here to make me feel like it is truly complete. Not only did we manage to get a pretty decent sci-fi action story, we also got a great romance in the bargain as well.
This is a new to me author whose works I've had on my radar for a while. I think I may just bump the next one up.