I am very happy to be part of the blog tour for Socialpunk by Monica Leonelle. At the end of this post is a fantastic giveaway for a an iPad 3, a Kindle Fire, or an autographed copy of Socialpunk!
Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire (http://proseonfire.com) and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit (http://proseonfire.com/free-writer-toolkit). The Socialpunk Trilogy by Monica Leonelle includes Socialpunk (April 2012), Socialmob (July 2012), and Socialhood (October 2012).
This is a hard review for me to write, because there is so much to like about Socialpunk. It’s creative, engaging, and filled with clever ideas that make it a unique read. It has also received lots of great reviews from the blogging community. But my overall reaction after reading the book was that it felt unfinished, like a first draft that had potential but needed a lot more work before it was ready to be published.
Socialpunk takes place in a future Chicago under a dome, where the “Scorched Years” have resulted in an entrapped life without access to other cities. When the story begins, Ima and her friend Dash are on their way to a concert in downtown Chicago. After managing to ditch her abusive father, they arrive at the concert where Ima meets another boy named Nahum. When an explosion suddenly erupts in the middle of the concert, Ima and Nahum are rescued by a mysterious hooded figure named Vaughn, but in the confusion Dash is left behind. Although Ima and Nahum are confused and panicked, Vaughn convinces them to leave the area on a train. He explains that he is a “virtual reality tester” and that the Chicago that Ima called home was nothing more than a fabricated existence.
As Vaughn leads them into Silicon City where he lives, Ima and Nahum discover a world filled with odd realities. Food is consumed in pill form, the city is ruled by artists, and everyone has been upgraded with bionics to make them super strong and agile. Vaughn introduces them to Nasser, the leader of the Socialpunks, and proclaims that Ima and Nahum need immediate surgery if they wish to join the group.
In a strangely rushed few pages, Ima is drugged, taken into an operating room, and altered from a flesh and blood human into a cyborg. She emerges taller, faster and with enhanced vision and a very convenient GPS interface. Before you can say Six Million Dollar Man, Ima and Nahum have not only joined the Socialpunks, but Ima has (oddly) changed her name to Cinder. (I’m still puzzled over this, having just read Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It’s probably a coincidence, but the similarities between the two characters are eery.) She convinces Nasser to help find Dash, and what follows is an exciting and dangerous race to get Dash out the dome before everyone there is destroyed.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Socialpunk is the world of Silicon City. Art is the main form of currency and everything revolves around the artists and those who profit from them. Citizens literally create the world around them by spray-painting buildings into existence or creating a hole in the ground by drawing a circle. In one memorable scene, Ima/Cinder competes in an “Art Smash,” a contest between two artists who create art with their minds and project it onto a screen while a crowd watches. I didn’t really understand the concept completely, but I loved the idea. I also loved the futuristic creation of pixel skin grafts, which are tattoos that move across the body, and “mergers,” people with hair in which each strand is a different color. Leonelle clearly has no shortage of creative ideas, and even though I was reminded of The Matrix and Battlestar Gallactica in places, Socialpunk has a unique feel all its own.
The relationships among the characters were confusing, mostly because there were so many of them. Ima might love Dash, but then she meets Nahum and falls for him. But then Vaughn comes along and falls for her, and then Ima falls for Nasser. In the end, Ima decides she really loves Dash the most. Mixed up in all this is Ember, a beautiful young Socialpunk who is jealous of Ima. The variety of hook-ups in Socialpunk made my head spin, and in the end I lost interest in all of the relationships because there were just too many.
The writing throughout was fairly solid, but some individual sentences were just awkward (“Vaughn’s eyes twirled towards the back of his head.”), and tense problems and lots of editing mistakes were distracting and kept throwing me off the story. Parts of the book seemed rushed, like the scene where Ima has surgery. If the author had expanded that section to include details of what she was going through, it would have added a wonderful layer to the story. There is a gleefully horrific scene in Scars by China Miéville that describes a complex surgery in which a human character acquires gills so that he can live underwater. I couldn’t help but compare that scene to this one.
The bottom line for me: Socialpunk is wildly creative, but lacks focus and polish. With so many details, it’s a story that needs more pages to expand on its creative ideas.
Thanks to the author for supplying a review copy of Socialpunk.
If you’d like to enter Monica’s giveaway, please click here. I’m sending you to another blog who is also participating in the tour, because I can’t use Rafflecopter on WordPress:( Just scroll down to the end of the post and you’ll see the Rafflecopter entry form. Good luck!