Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield
by K Ceres Wright
Dog Star Books
‘Nicholle tapped her index finger three times against her thumb. Prismatic colors spiraled around her, then whipped into a tight coil, bringing the scent of fresh flowers. The standard greeting sounded in her ears, “Welcome to Cognition.”’
Founder and head of an obscenely profitable wireless hologram business, Geren Ryder is on the verge of welcoming his long-lost spawn, Perin Nester into his towering empire. It is practically guaranteed that legit offspring, Wills won’t take this well. Shortly after the big reveal, Geren falls into a mysterious coma and son, Wills takes a chunk of money and disappears. Needing to appoint a new head, the board turns to Wills’ sister, Nicholle, a recovering addict who is more suited to her job as curator at a holographic art museum than running the family biz. However, before she can take on the role, she is set up as an embezzler and then a hired gun attempts to kill her. She’s now on the run and has five days to find out what’s going on before her comatose father is euthanized.
‘With the advent of fuel cells, people had moved further out beyond D.C. than before, establishing towns in once-rural areas, now known as the purlieus. The suburbs were abandoned, left to whoever was left—usually the criminal element.’
We are all simply cogs in a global machine, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Cog. At first glimpse it is a somewhat ordinary story of revenge, greed and power set against a futuristic backdrop. And yes, at its core, Cog is a classic story of family dysfunction with some James Bond-esque thrills and rather groovy technology thrown in. But it is so much more, as Christopher Paul Carey says so succinctly in Cog’s Foreword:
‘While I don’t believe K Ceres Wright sets out to change the world with her debut novel, Cog, neither do I think it is a coincidence that her protagonist, Nicholle Ryder, hails from a background in the fine arts. One needs an artist’s eye to take on the system, to perceive its weaknesses and strengths so they can be leveraged into a creative solution for society’s problems.’
Written as part of Ceres Wright’s Master’s Degree in Writing Popular Fiction, Cog is a story that ticks all the boxes. The techno aspects are easily understood and highlight, rather than take over the story. I have loved the SF since childhood, but even as an adult I find a lot of it is too bogged down with technical elements that I can’t understand. This isn’t the case with Cog. A familiarity with today’s technology is all that is required to understand this world. The writing is tight; the plot well constructed and fast-paced. Nicholle is a particularly real and likable character. This isn’t to say Cog’s other characters aren’t as well drawn—they are—but Nicholle is the engine in this machine. Her motivation to save her father is one of love, which balances beautifully with the scramble for wealth and power going on around her. Nicholle is every woman. She deserves to triumph.
In closing, I will again borrow from Mr Carey:
‘But what ultimately makes K Ceres Wright’s Cog such a satisfying read is that it works as well as a thriller as it does social commentary and technological extrapolation. Its careful balance of corporate intrigue and breakneck action makes it the perfect debut release for Dog Star Books, whose motto—“Science Fiction that goes for the throat”—could not be more appropriate.’
Jenny Mounfield has been reviewing books for several years. Her reviews have appeared both online and in print. She is the author of four novels and several short stories for young people. The Unforgetting, a psychological thriller for adult readers, is available from the Kindle Store.