Berkley Hinton has just released his debut novel, Burning World. In short, it’s one of the best cyberpunk novels I’ve ever read.
The book touches on a number of organizations and characters, spanning from the military to the yakuza (It’s a cyberpunk novel; so of course, yakuza). While this may seem a broad range, Hinton does a masterful job of making each not only pertinent to the story, but encourages the reader to be vested in each and every one.
The main two groups are represented by the ever-conflicting Agency 0 and Unit 1. It’s essentially the old guard versus the new. The former being a squad of military elite led by the legendary Ace Monroe, and the latter by his younger brother Alec. Ace, dubbed the Major, sees a sickness that has overrun Sun City and initiates his plan to restore it, through whatever means necessary, to its former glory. The current government sends Unit 1 to meet the challenge, effectively pitting the brothers against each other.
While the intricate story line is a definite high point of the book, there are the other elements woven in that make it an extraordinary read. As an action buff, the sequences in Burning World do not disappoint. In addition, the technology incorporated was both original and interesting, which is difficult to pull off amidst the past and present works thus far. The care and research is also evident here. Each character and organization has the background and details that are often overlooked in other works. I found myself not only entertained, but also reading a story that I knew was based on historical fact.
While Burning World was filled with originality, there were obvious nods to other works. This is not a bad thing, and inevitable for an artist to reflect what influenced them. In reading Burning World, I definitely picked up notes from Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, and Metal Gear.
Full disclosure, I’m a personal friend of Berkley and know that he’s put in years of hard work crafting his manuscript. In addition, Burning World takes place in the same universe as my own novel, The Soldier’s Sympathy. Despite this, it’s a science fiction novel that’s not to be passed up.