I was looking forward to reading Edge by Thomas Blackthorne. I liked the blurb (which you can see in the picture). It sounded like it was going to be an ultra-violent Running Man fun type of silliness. Predators in book form. But that’s not what it was. Bad Angry Robot. That’s the second time I’ve read a book from this imprint that did not contain what was on the label.
Edge is actually a thriller set in a near-future dystopia. The son of a wealthy and influential tycoon runs away from home so he hires an ex-SAS soldier with mad software skills to find the boy. Doing so reveals illegal activity on the behalf of the tycoon’s biggest rival in cahoots with a corrupt government. It’s set in a near-future UK where everything is tracked and recorded electronically all the time and getting off the grid is tough. Knife duels are legal and as a result crime is down but loads of people die in duels. And sports/reality TV is dominated by a duelling league where combatants die every week for your viewing pleasure. But the book doesn’t focus on that part of it. That’s the backdrop for the real story.
It was a good thriller. It was easy reading and fast paced. The protagonist, Josh Cumberland, is a fairly typical modern thriller hero; big, buff, beautiful, with special forces training (which in this world includes cyber warfare) and an anger management problem. What lifts Edge up from the mass is the cast of strong female characters that support the protagonist. Cumberland’s team of ex-SAS buddies are not all male – and the ones that are, have three-dimensional personalities. His insider on the force is a policewoman who gives free self-defence classes in her spare time. The ‘love interest’ is a psychologist whose skills are pivotal to resolving the central mystery. And it’s nice that her role as psychologist way overshadows her role as love interest. I thought the characterisation was real and sensitive, and I think this might actually pass the Bechdel test.
The near-future setting was rich and cleverly put together. It was distinctive, memorable and thoroughly thought through, and yet at no time did the setting overshadow the story. I was disappointed that the knife duelling reality show didn’t have more airtime, but that’s only because that’s what I thought the book would be about. But Edge is excellent, and it was a better story than that. I hope Blackthorne writes more stories set in this world.
Writing-wise, it was clean and competent. Blackthorne has a very understated style. The writing focusses on plot with description and characterisation subtly woven in-between dialogue and action. Ignore the blurb and give it a go.