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Esa Ortega’s previous books have covered space opera and zompoc fiction, so it’s no surprise to see another change of direction within the sci-fi genre with this latest offering. Dead Formats merges a classic cyberpunk setting with the feel of detective fiction, and uses potentially stereotypical sci-fi tropes such as the self as a hologram in a fresh way. So the idea that different AIs and maybe even digital immortalities will be adopted and then quickly superseded is at the heart of the story, hence the title.
As with the author’s other books, the storyworld is richly crafted and like the best sci-fi, incorporates plenty of themes extrapolated from today’s world – in this case, the desirability of digital immortality, the threat of environmental decay and how identity is going to remain coherent in a chaotic future society, to name just three.
No plot spoilers here, but it’s also a twisty and entertaining whodunnit, too, of course, with witty dialogue and odd but likeable characters. If you like the idea of a futuristic detective story and you’re a fan of Blade Runner and Black Mirror, I definitely recommend it.
In Dead Formats, Esa Ortega has impressively entwined a detective-led murder mystery with his imagining of a possible world in the not-too-distant future. The narrative nicely fits around the structure of its chapters in a way that provides mini-cliffhangers, and a keen sense of wanting to know how the next chapter develops.
The world building is inventive and convincing; aside from the imagined innovations that are pertinent to the main plot, the described technologies that lay at the story's periphery effectively serve to build a vivid picture of Light City in 2064.
It's a novel that will keep the pages turning and the reader guessing. Definitely recommended.
Second book I've read from this author (The Kassini Division) . Like the writing style, good action, interesting characters and an enjoyable mix of detective investigation and Sci-Fi. Will definitely look out for more by Esa