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Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The be Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The best part of the game isn’t killing enemy combatants, though—it’s catching in-game glimpses of SpecOps operatives, celebrity supersoldiers grown and owned by Stellaxis, the corporation that runs the America she lives in. Until a chance encounter with a SpecOps operative in the game leads Mal to a horrifying discovery: the real-life operatives weren’t created by Stellaxis. They were kids, just like her, who lost everything in the war, and were stolen and augmented and tortured into becoming supersoldiers. The world worships them, but the world believes a lie. The company controls every part of their lives, and defying them puts everything at risk—her water ration, her livelihood, her connectivity, her friends, her life—but she can’t just sit on the knowledge. She has to do something—even if doing something will bring the wrath of the most powerful company in the world down upon her.


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Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The be Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The best part of the game isn’t killing enemy combatants, though—it’s catching in-game glimpses of SpecOps operatives, celebrity supersoldiers grown and owned by Stellaxis, the corporation that runs the America she lives in. Until a chance encounter with a SpecOps operative in the game leads Mal to a horrifying discovery: the real-life operatives weren’t created by Stellaxis. They were kids, just like her, who lost everything in the war, and were stolen and augmented and tortured into becoming supersoldiers. The world worships them, but the world believes a lie. The company controls every part of their lives, and defying them puts everything at risk—her water ration, her livelihood, her connectivity, her friends, her life—but she can’t just sit on the knowledge. She has to do something—even if doing something will bring the wrath of the most powerful company in the world down upon her.

30 review for Firebreak

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Kornher-Stace

    Not a review! There are a few questions that have been coming up repeatedly from early readers and interested readers via Twitter, email, etc. and I thought collecting them here (with their answers) might be helpful, so here we go! 1. "I don't play video games! Will I be totally lost?" While yes, it's a book about a gamer, it's also a book about a gamer as written by a person who a.) has a lot of experience explaining games to nongamers, and b.) is a big big fan of when a story starts off as one Not a review! There are a few questions that have been coming up repeatedly from early readers and interested readers via Twitter, email, etc. and I thought collecting them here (with their answers) might be helpful, so here we go! 1. "I don't play video games! Will I be totally lost?" While yes, it's a book about a gamer, it's also a book about a gamer as written by a person who a.) has a lot of experience explaining games to nongamers, and b.) is a big big fan of when a story starts off as one thing and then goes totally sideways as soon as you think you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Plus I'm hearing from non-gamer early readers that the in-game parts of the book weren't confusing to them, at least for long (whew). Above all it's about a gamer who Gets In Over Her Head and realizes that the game is just the start of her problems. 2. "Is it really similar to Ready Player One?" Yes and no? It's about a massively popular VR game, but the similarities pretty much end there. Rather than one lone male hero, it's about a pair of women gamers working together to get shit done. And I don't want to spoil anything so let's just say Mal's motives and relationship to the corporation that controls the IP she loves are...a bit different than Wade's are in RPO. Oh, and there's no 80s references. Sorry. I'd be better at 90s references anyway. (There aren't any of those either.) 3. "I heard the protagonist was aromantic and asexual, is that true?" Yup! For that matter, so am I. A caveat here though that I prefer implicit representation that shows itself organically in the text, so Mal doesn't at any point say out loud that she's aro/ace, or feel the need to explain it to other characters, and other characters never put her in the position to do so--but her aro/aceness is fully present in her actions and motives and desires in a pretty major plot-point kind of way. 4. "Is this the third Archivist Wasp book you mentioned working on?" Nope! That's a work-in-progress over on my Patreon. Firebreak is 100% a standalone, though another thing I'm a big big fan of is when authors include Easter eggs for longtime readers, and if you are such a reader, I hope you find some to your liking here. 5. "Where does it do you the most good for me to preorder from?" I mean, I sometimes hear that Amazon sales are the most important ones for some reason, but a.) I don't know if that's true and b.) I don't really care. Indie bookstores forever. <3 All preorders are great and extremely necessary for a book's success, but if I can help do a tiny bit to keep your favorite local indie bookstore alive and kicking, I'd love if you went there first. (And because money sucks right now, remember you can always have your library preorder for you!) 6. "Is this another zero-romance book about ride-or-die friendships?" If it has my name on the cover the answer's always gonna be yes. I'm committed to putting as many books as I can out into the world that treat platonic relationships with all the weight and gravity and significance usually reserved for romance. This one centers two strong friendships as well as a hopeless (or is it??) platonic crush, which is something I've never seen in any piece of fiction anywhere and always wanted to. So I did what I always do when I want to read something and can't find it. I went ahead and wrote it myself. 7. (view spoiler)["We don't get nearly enough of 22 and 06 in this book--I want more of them!" Believe me, I would love nothing more in the whole entire world than to be able to include more of their backstory and relationship in this book, but it just wasn't the place for it. Not only do their lives only intersect with Mal's very briefly, but writing a character who's spent the better part of his life strategically suppressing his personality (and then doesn't have anywhere near enough time to suddenly/unrealistically unlearn that on-page) was challenging, and I'm glad to see that so far most readers get what I was doing there. The good news is that there is lots more 22 and 06 out there in the world for the finding! Here's one small piece of it to get you started. And for the past few months I've been writing them a ridiculous fluff story over on my Patreon, with probably more of the same to come as I have time. As for the rest, it's out there! ...somewhere. Happy hunting. :D (hide spoiler)] 8. "Is it adult or YA?" Honestly I'm a terrible person to ask. It's being marketed as adult, but I'm told it has YA crossover (here for instance), and the protagonist is about 20. That said, I thought my YA debut Archivist Wasp was adult, if I thought about marketing labels at all, but I was told otherwise in no uncertain terms, so here we are. There is a lot of cursing in Firebreak, but no sex or graphic violence, if that helps. Thanks so much for your interest in Firebreak and I very much hope you enjoy. And if you have any questions I didn't cover here, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer. :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lady Amanda

    Holy- You need to read this book It's the anti-capitalist story that Ready Player One wishes it was. Read my full review HERE. ❤ Check below for a preview! Action packed, anti-capitalist, compelling, well written, easy to follow, emotional, and tense. Oh man, where do I begin? I really loved this book. When I opened it, I thought “man this is kind of long, I didn’t realize!” And then literally this book doesn’t slow down at any point. It is packed with amazing content. This is going to be a hard rev Holy- You need to read this book It's the anti-capitalist story that Ready Player One wishes it was. Read my full review HERE. ❤ Check below for a preview! Action packed, anti-capitalist, compelling, well written, easy to follow, emotional, and tense. Oh man, where do I begin? I really loved this book. When I opened it, I thought “man this is kind of long, I didn’t realize!” And then literally this book doesn’t slow down at any point. It is packed with amazing content. This is going to be a hard review, because it’s packed with so many different amazing things that I don’t know how well I can narrow it down! This book is easy to follow and fast paced, but delightfully anti-capitalist in a way that Ready Player One wishes it was. But not in any of the ways you anticipate it to be. Firebreak follows Mal, who lives with her 7 roommates in an old hotel room, living by the rules of the mega corporation, Stellaxis, amidst a corporate war stalemate. Mal and her best friend Jessa are mildly successful at streaming the wildly popular war VR game modeled after the real corporate war — the war that the corporations have monetized. Everything changes for Mal and Jessa when they get contacted by a mysterious sponsor who tells them that the super human celebrities, that everyone knows Stellaxis grew in a lab, are not lab experiments at all. They’re real war orphans, just like Mal and Jessa. Keep reading... *I received a free copy of this book from the author and am leaving this review voluntarily* Bookish Brews | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr

  3. 4 out of 5

    Book

    Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Listen to the full review here: https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/15.... I teach an apocalyptic worldbuilding class. In it, we discuss the ways the world might devolve, and the implications for the setting of a story. These include climate degradation, nuclear fallout, corporate hegemony, totalitarianism, constant civil war, and, more recently, a technocracy that uses surveillance technology to enforce class hierarchies. Nicole Kornher-Stace took every single Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Listen to the full review here: https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/15.... I teach an apocalyptic worldbuilding class. In it, we discuss the ways the world might devolve, and the implications for the setting of a story. These include climate degradation, nuclear fallout, corporate hegemony, totalitarianism, constant civil war, and, more recently, a technocracy that uses surveillance technology to enforce class hierarchies. Nicole Kornher-Stace took every single one of these elements, threw them in a blender, and made a surprisingly decent smoothie. Despite the oversized ambitions, the worldbuilding largely stays consistent and isn’t overtly distracting to the main plot lines. The book still suffers, however, from undercooking other elements. The chapters alternate between action-packed and the two main characters reviewing said action, painstakingly giving us info-drops and over-explanations that we don’t need. Often, the plot is carried forward by convenience, and the women are inexplicably lucky at the most fortunate times. Hilariously, this comes across as a YA novel except that the author stirred about 150 “fucks” into the mix. We don’t even get any creative swearing. It was like someone told her, hey, you have a half hour to turn this from PG13 to R, so she panicked and wrote “fuck” as much as she could. My main frustration with this book comes from the MC, the 1st-person narrator who brings us along for this ride. She in an introvert, defensive, and ethical, both generous to strangers and annoying as shit to the people she is close to. Typically, I love a good asshole character much more than a savior. We enjoy these types of characters (Sherlock, Dr. House, Marcella, etc) because their brilliance and wit earn their prickliness. Mal doesn’t impress me at all in those regards. She also shows no character growth, as learning more information does not qualify as actually maturing or adapting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Very nice, very nice. While this was written as a standalone book, I can't help but see it as the precursor world laid out in Kornher-Stace's amazing book, Archivist Wasp. It just feels like Firebreak is the before-time to that. There is a lot to unpack in the story, which includes elements of corporate hegemony, economic freedom, the role of social media, and the realer than real online world. I loved, loved, loved, the relationships here. Friendship, trust, and platonic love are all part of the Very nice, very nice. While this was written as a standalone book, I can't help but see it as the precursor world laid out in Kornher-Stace's amazing book, Archivist Wasp. It just feels like Firebreak is the before-time to that. There is a lot to unpack in the story, which includes elements of corporate hegemony, economic freedom, the role of social media, and the realer than real online world. I loved, loved, loved, the relationships here. Friendship, trust, and platonic love are all part of the package and are brought to life to in all their various forms. The fact that Mal doesn't necessarily "do people" is presented as just another variation among human personality types, rather than as a trait that needs to be overcome in order for her to do what she needs to. The worldbuilding is interesting, and not completely beyond the realm of the possible. The slow takeover of the key human requirements for life by for-profit corporations, and what that means for the everyday person (ie. 99% of us) is something that really doesn't require too much suspension of disbelief (which really should be a warning in and of itself). The role of social media in perpetuating the status quo or as a tool for politicization and social change is similarly something we can quite easily fit into our current world view. Firebreak takes these almost familiar themes and weaves them into a fast paced and engaging story. That's what I'm always looking for.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    Corporations rule the world and the citizens are kept under their control in a distopian future full of water rationing and bombings. But everyone seems to have access to all the video games and social media they want. Mallory and her friend Jessa discover that the supersoldier operatives in a war game weren’t created in a lab as the players have been told, instead they are actually the adult versions of orphans stolen as children. Mallory believes that by exposing this lie she can bring down th Corporations rule the world and the citizens are kept under their control in a distopian future full of water rationing and bombings. But everyone seems to have access to all the video games and social media they want. Mallory and her friend Jessa discover that the supersoldier operatives in a war game weren’t created in a lab as the players have been told, instead they are actually the adult versions of orphans stolen as children. Mallory believes that by exposing this lie she can bring down the corporations. I can’t relate to the idea of playing war games, and I know nothing about gaming in general. The beginning of this book was written in a gaming language that I do not speak and don’t particularly want to learn. Although I ignored most of the game, I did manage to follow the plot, which was really pretty simple. Neither the world building nor the character development was strong. My favorite characters were the operatives and I don’t think the book actually needed Mallory. The operatives seemed capable of handling things themselves. This book was just ok for me, but then I don’t think that I am the intended audience. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/05/10/... Opening on a not-too-distant future, Firebreak follows Mallory, AKA Nycorix when she’s online, a gamer who has recently turned to streaming in the hopes of making some extra money to afford the basic necessities of life. Following the corporate war, distribution of all resources has come under the control of the mega-companies, including access to technology, food, and even water, which is particularly scarce. Mal lives 2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/05/10/... Opening on a not-too-distant future, Firebreak follows Mallory, AKA Nycorix when she’s online, a gamer who has recently turned to streaming in the hopes of making some extra money to afford the basic necessities of life. Following the corporate war, distribution of all resources has come under the control of the mega-companies, including access to technology, food, and even water, which is particularly scarce. Mal lives in a hotel room with eight other young adults who were also orphaned during the war, one of them being Jessa, her best friend. Together, the two women play a massively multiplayer online war game called BestLife, where they stream themselves killing enemy combatants. But one of the most profitable activities—not to mention a surefire way to gain a ton of subscribers—is to catch a glimpse of the various SpecOps agents who are in game, celebrity super-soldiers created and owned by the corporation Stellaxis. One day, Mal and Jessa receive an offer of sponsorship out of nowhere, from a mysterious benefactor who wants them to gather as much information as they can on these super-soldiers. In doing so though, Mal discovers a horrifying truth—the SpecOps operatives they see in game are actually real-life people, kids who lost everything into the war and forcibly recruited to work for Stellaxis via torture and the use of augments. At first, Mal and Jessa reluctant to believe any of it, but then their sponsor abruptly disappears, confirming their suspicions of a much deeper and diabolical conspiracy. The plot thickens as they encounter two of the super-soldiers in real life, further propelling the two friends down a path of danger and uncertainty. Mal wants to do the right thing and expose Stellaxis, but what can she do when the enemy is an all-powerful entity that has full control of everything in her life? It pains me to say this, because my geeky gamer heart loved the MMO aspects of Firebreak, but the truth is, the gaming element was probably the only thing that was done well. Everything else felt a bit half-baked and shoddily executed. To its credit, the book did start out on the right foot, kicking things off with a dynamic sequence in its introduction which featured a flurry of action and gaming terms. I felt like I was with my people when it came to Mal and Jess—two kickass female gamers who knew their stuff and were driven to win. But pretty soon, the cracks began to show. It first began with my opinion with of Mal, which swiftly plummeted as I got to know her better through her interactions with Jessa and their roommates. Now, I’m all for an anti-social and introverted protagonist and believe they can make for very interesting character studies if written well. But Mal’s personality was off-putting almost from the beginning, unnecessarily snide with her comments and just all around bad-tempered and irritable, often taking her troubles out on others. She’s also not the most competent, and half the time she doesn’t even know what she’s doing. My next point of criticism might seem strange, since I’ve read books that are much worse when it comes to this, but man, after a while, I got so sick of the characters’ endless cussing. It’s one thing if it’s done creatively or adds to the dialogue, but here it just felt like bad writing and made everyone come off as juvenile and dim-witted. Plus, this story already had a vague YA vibe, and ironically, the swearing made things feel even more puerile. Fortunately, that’s probably the worse of it. The other aspects of the book were pretty good, if a little underdeveloped, as I’d mentioned before. For instance, I think the concept of real-life super-soldiers being kidnapped as children and forced to become in-game SpecOps characters is an intriguing one, though a lot of questions remain, since the narrative fails to provide the clearest explanations. The dystopic setting was also well-imagined, but again we have crucial details lacking, as historical events like the corporate war and its consequences on society are painted with a broad brush, leaving readers to puzzle out the logic of some of these effects by themselves. Still, despite its flaws, Firebreak was quite honestly a fun book. Had we gotten a more palatable protagonist, I’m even positive I would have given this novel a higher rating. In the end though, a satisfying reading experience for me always begins with the characters, and being put off by Mal probably affected my enjoyment. That said, I think I’m in the minority when it comes to my feelings. Not all readers will have the problems I had with the main character, and ultimately, Firebreak may provide a great read for fans of dystopian world-building and sci-fi action stories about gaming.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Gascoyne

    I still consider Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp one of the best YA fantasies of the past several years, and its sequel, Latchkey, did not disappoint. So imagine my delight when I received an advance copy of her latest stand-alone novel for adults (old or young), Fiirebreak. And to my even greater delight, Firebreak proved to be as satisfying and thought provoking as its predecessors. There’s no question that Kornher-Stace is a writerly force to be reckoned with, and she deserves a much wi I still consider Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp one of the best YA fantasies of the past several years, and its sequel, Latchkey, did not disappoint. So imagine my delight when I received an advance copy of her latest stand-alone novel for adults (old or young), Fiirebreak. And to my even greater delight, Firebreak proved to be as satisfying and thought provoking as its predecessors. There’s no question that Kornher-Stace is a writerly force to be reckoned with, and she deserves a much wider audience. Kornher-Stace is a master of “in medias res”: Archivist Wasp opens with its protagonist fighting for her life, and Firebreak immerses us immediately in a game-world where RL players in a virtual battle-field struggle for points and, more importantly, followers and sponsors, who will pay the fighters not just in boosts and equipment but in RL commodities like water. Mallory (Mal), the gamer, lives in an all-too possible dystopian near-future, where two global corporations battle for territory and control not just of the media but of life-supporting commodities like food and water. After Mal and her partner have a close encounter in the game-world, they are approached by a potential sponsor, who enlists them to investigate a secret she believes she has discovered. This secret threatens to blow the corporation that controls the city where they live wide open, and the central conflict concerns Mal and her friends responding to it. To say more would be spoilerish, but suffice it to say that the novel asks how far one would go to defend against moral … not just injustice, but _wrongness__. This novel is about taking a stand, even when the odds seem to be totally not in your favour. One thing I really enjoyed is that we see the way one character’s actions inspires and invigorates broader acts of protest. Mal is a flawed protagonist, not some effortless “chosen one,” and I thoroughly enjoyed the way she is forced almost despite herself to overcome her social awkwardness to become a leader. The parallels with our own world, with events and protests everywhere, but perhaps especially in the US in 2020, give this novel an immediacy and a sense of urgency that will stay with the reader long afterwards. This novel is thought-provoking but also action-packed, un-put-downable, and just plain fabulous. It will be released next year: watch for it!! I am grateful to Nicole Kornher-Stace for providing me with an ARC.

  8. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I loved the book archivist wasp by the author and was excited to read her newest.  While on the balance, I have to say that I liked it, I generally loved the first half of the story better than the second half. I really did love the ideas of corporations at war and how water rights played an issue in this book.  I loved how the corporations used the war in VR game Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I loved the book archivist wasp by the author and was excited to read her newest.  While on the balance, I have to say that I liked it, I generally loved the first half of the story better than the second half. I really did love the ideas of corporations at war and how water rights played an issue in this book.  I loved how the corporations used the war in VR games and especially how the supersoldiers were used inside the game.  I loved the main character, Mal, and her relationship with her roommate.  I also loved those soldier superstars and their relationship with each other. The problem for me is that the book is set into several sections.  I really enjoyed the set-up in parts one and two.  Once the truth is out, I found it to be not very interesting and the mechanism for saving the world to be lackluster too.  There were parts of part three that I did enjoy.  But once the showdown with corporate begins in earnest, it felt a bit drawn out and seriously unrealistic.  I know that be super vague but further details lead to spoilers and I do think that many readers will love how everything plays out.  There were just plot points in here that are generally not to be taste.  I wanted the VR game to have more importance and impact.  At least the ending did redeem the middle part a bit for me. I have no regrets reading this one and will continue to read the author's work.  I need to get the sequel to the first book in the Wasp Saga and she is apparently writing a third in that world.  Plus I have another Nicole Kornher-Stace book lined up later in the year.  Arrr! So lastly . . . Thank you Saga Press!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a SF about dystopic corporate future, were people play online shooters and pay almost half of their income for drinking water. I read is as a Buddy read for June 2021 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. The story starts with the protagonist, Mallory (Mal, in-game name Nycorix) playing massive multiplayer online game BestLife, which is mainly a shooter (unlike most well-known MMOs, from Ultima and WoW to Eve Online, where a broad variety of things to do beyond killing others are This is a SF about dystopic corporate future, were people play online shooters and pay almost half of their income for drinking water. I read is as a Buddy read for June 2021 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. The story starts with the protagonist, Mallory (Mal, in-game name Nycorix) playing massive multiplayer online game BestLife, which is mainly a shooter (unlike most well-known MMOs, from Ultima and WoW to Eve Online, where a broad variety of things to do beyond killing others are present) that has a hyper-realistic graphics and in-game spaces in line with the real world. The goal that Mal is trying to achieve at the moment is to kill a thousand NPCs to get to another level. At that moment she spots a SpecOps agent, who is based on its real life counterpart – a superpowered killing machine, the ultimate weapon of the corp that controls almost everything Mal has/uses. the corporation’s name is Stellaxis. Getting a SpecOps agent as your in-game assistant / side-kick / weapon is one of the rewards within the game allowing laying waste almost everything. Mal is helped by her friend Jessa, who is more a public person, unlike Mal, who is introverted and has problems with people touching her (not groping, but like giving a hand to get over an obstacle). Mal and Jessa stream their gameplay and get tips for that. They also do gig-jobs, like babysitting or walking dogs. And they really need money, for the whole USA is now controlled by just two corps, Stellaxis and Greenleaf which war with each other. Stellaxis sells a lot of stuff, but the most important is drinking water – the company has a monopoly of gathering /purification /sale and hits violators of its IP hard. Mal is asked to meet her new mysterious sponsor, who offers to pay in water if she tries to get more info about SpecOps agents, for the sponsor thinks that the agents aren’t bioforms created by corps, but stolen kids. Mal doubts it, but water is water, plus she has a platonic crush for one of the agents. I don’t like the story. It is intended as just another ‘evil corps eat your kids’ anti-capitalist critique, which could be interested as a short story but not a novel, where say snow lays on streets but no one picks to melt it in hand and drink, as if any entity may stop 99% of population doing it. The action parts are well done, but I’m not interested in those.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This fucking book!! I AM SUFFERING AFTER THE ENDING 😩😩 Somewhere in the far future, two mega corporations rule over the supercity New Liberty (Picture: Capitalism run rampant). Mallory doesn't want for much: enough water to keep her kidneys from failing, more time/money to dedicate to the virtual game BestLife, not having to work multiple jobs alongside her 8 other roommates so they can afford their room. Mal loves being able to play BestLife and catching glimpses of the celebrity SecOps NPCs whi This fucking book!! I AM SUFFERING AFTER THE ENDING 😩😩 Somewhere in the far future, two mega corporations rule over the supercity New Liberty (Picture: Capitalism run rampant). Mallory doesn't want for much: enough water to keep her kidneys from failing, more time/money to dedicate to the virtual game BestLife, not having to work multiple jobs alongside her 8 other roommates so they can afford their room. Mal loves being able to play BestLife and catching glimpses of the celebrity SecOps NPCs which are based off Stellaxis's SecOps operatives. But when Mal is pulled into a conspiracy theory, she finds out the SecOps operatives weren't created by Stellaxis, but are children stolen from the war and augmented into the perfect super soldier. This is another example of why I love sci-fi. The worldbuilding, the social commentary, the characters. All of it worked seamlessly to pull my into this world and I never wanted to leave the story. I don't think I'd actually want to live in New Liberty though because it is a bit depressing and terrifying to imagine. Mal was an easy character to relate to. I really loved that throughout the whole story she's still her introverted self and she doesn't have to change that about herself to be a hero. The other thing I loved was her friendship with Jessa. It was just the best. Mal is also aroace, though the word is never used. There was sort of a vague statement about how her crush on 22 isn't of the romantic kind. I loved getting to know the operatives a bit. I wish we got to know more about them. I also wish the ending wasn't so open ended because I AM SUFFERING FOR IT. Regardless, I loved this book so much.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    Some aspects of this book are solidly four or five stars--when the intense scenes are *really* intense, the world building and its direct themes are intriguing, and the set up provides a fantastic way to incorporate video gaming while still allowing the tension to be based soundly in reality. But overall there was a lot that just felt flat to me. Some of the plot doesn't quite add up and there were a bunch of areas where I thought it was leading up to something really interesting and then took a Some aspects of this book are solidly four or five stars--when the intense scenes are *really* intense, the world building and its direct themes are intriguing, and the set up provides a fantastic way to incorporate video gaming while still allowing the tension to be based soundly in reality. But overall there was a lot that just felt flat to me. Some of the plot doesn't quite add up and there were a bunch of areas where I thought it was leading up to something really interesting and then took a sharp turn into bland. The ending also didn't cut it for me. I'm a huge fan of open-ended and tragic endings when they're actually satisfying (which they absolutely can be, when done well!), but this one just left me feeling like I'd been chewed up and spit back out again and no one even thought to give me a lollipop for my trouble. I'm sure someone liked it, but it made me feel like I'd just wasted six hours of my life. Also, despite being an asexual myself, I wouldn't have known the MC as ace unless I'd seen it marked as such on lists... which is /fine/, technically, I don't think the main character's sexual attraction (or lack there of) needs to be focused on in every book, but it's a weird choice when asexuality is so tragically underrepresented. I've only gotten to read a handful of books with asexual characters (most of them indie) and it would have been nice to get to see myself actively portrayed instead of passively passed off.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karina Sumner-Smith

    I read a few early chapters of this book and loved them -- then was afraid that the rest wouldn't hold up. I was afraid, truly, that my early enthusiasm was just setting me up for disappointment. Then I read the rest of the draft, and loved the rest of the book *more*. Truly, FIREBREAK is weapons-grade awesome and I can't wait to read the final version. I read a few early chapters of this book and loved them -- then was afraid that the rest wouldn't hold up. I was afraid, truly, that my early enthusiasm was just setting me up for disappointment. Then I read the rest of the draft, and loved the rest of the book *more*. Truly, FIREBREAK is weapons-grade awesome and I can't wait to read the final version.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Originally gave it 3 stars, but when a day later I was still saying "Oh yeah, and that part didn't make any sense either..." it got downgraded. The writing was good, characters were fine, but the world and the overall plot didn't work for me. Dystopian requires some suspension of disbelief, but, for example, not drinking rainwater when you are literally dying of thirst because the company says it has diseases? Nope. Soda (which is mostly water) is cheap - do they make it with a water substitute Originally gave it 3 stars, but when a day later I was still saying "Oh yeah, and that part didn't make any sense either..." it got downgraded. The writing was good, characters were fine, but the world and the overall plot didn't work for me. Dystopian requires some suspension of disbelief, but, for example, not drinking rainwater when you are literally dying of thirst because the company says it has diseases? Nope. Soda (which is mostly water) is cheap - do they make it with a water substitute in the future? Dispensing water rations from a storeroom full of heavily guarded water barrels even though the building has working plumbing? Why? Wouldn't it be easier to dispense from a tap and, you know, turn off the water at the source, no plot-convenient armed guards needed? Yet the communal garden on the roof, growing the only citrus that is apparently holding scurvy at bay, needs no guards at all? Something that worries me - "Does it make it better, what she did, if she was only following orders when she did it? Fuck if I know that, either. " Answer - No, it does not make it better, because she TORTURED KIDS. It's called a war crime. It's not even like she was in the German army and would be court-martialed for not following orders. If she didn't want to, she could just QUIT HER JOB. The ending, while very millennial, didn't work. Anyone old enough to remember Tiananmen Square knows that getting press attention isn't going to change an oppressive dictatorship. Sorry, but clicking "like" on Facebook will not bring down a government that is not already open to change. Overall, it makes me wonder if this author has ever cracked open a history book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    4.5 stars This was a tough one to review, as all I really wanted to say was 'Squeee!' I loved it for many reasons--the depiction of strong friendships was certainly the main one. The other, personal, reason I loved it was that the author granted the one wish I have had since I read Archivist Wasp and Latchkey: she gave me the origin story of the ghosts. The dystopian future was familiar enough: two mega-corporations fighting over a territory, with the average person suffering the most. The war has 4.5 stars This was a tough one to review, as all I really wanted to say was 'Squeee!' I loved it for many reasons--the depiction of strong friendships was certainly the main one. The other, personal, reason I loved it was that the author granted the one wish I have had since I read Archivist Wasp and Latchkey: she gave me the origin story of the ghosts. The dystopian future was familiar enough: two mega-corporations fighting over a territory, with the average person suffering the most. The war has been going on for years with no end in sight. It almost seems like neither side is capable of winning--or is it that it is in both corporations' best interest to keep the war going? I really liked our heroine Mallory Parker and her roommates, especially her best friend Jessa. They are ordinary young adults just struggling to earn enough to buy enough water to stay alive. We have only Mal's POV, so some of the secondary characters are merely sketched in. The motivations of the Big Baddies are likewise sketchy, as Mal cannot know much of what drives them to be the tyrants that they are. I enjoyed the VR game, BestLife, even though I don't play video games myself. All of the future tech seemed a probable extrapolation from what's now available. I don't really want to say much about the 'super soldier' NPCs who are the 'stars' of the game and whose real-life counterparts are the heart of the story. There are all sorts of twists and revelations that each reader should discover on their own. The author's strength in this book was in her portrayal of Mal. She gave us an average, get trying to get along, young woman who stumbled upon an evil and discovered her own hidden depths of purpose and courage. I wanted to hug her, protect her, all the while I was cheering her on.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gabi

    DNF at 52% therefore no rating. I'm not the target audience, there are several of my pet peeves of writing in there that just can't keep me interested enough. DNF at 52% therefore no rating. I'm not the target audience, there are several of my pet peeves of writing in there that just can't keep me interested enough.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ~ Recreational Hobbyist

    The United States has been taken over & is now ruled by 2 corporations, Stellaxis & Greenleaf, which are at constant war with each other. Mallory lives in the ruins of New Liberty City, known as Old Town. Here she is bunked with other young adults, working odd jobs & dealing with the aftermath of war & rationed water & food by the Stellaxis Corporation. Stellaxis has a group of super-soldiers that are named only by numbers. The super-soldiers are the equivalent of celebrities in this dystopian s The United States has been taken over & is now ruled by 2 corporations, Stellaxis & Greenleaf, which are at constant war with each other. Mallory lives in the ruins of New Liberty City, known as Old Town. Here she is bunked with other young adults, working odd jobs & dealing with the aftermath of war & rationed water & food by the Stellaxis Corporation. Stellaxis has a group of super-soldiers that are named only by numbers. The super-soldiers are the equivalent of celebrities in this dystopian society. They have fought in the great war against Greenleaf & Stellaxis sells all their merch in the corporate stores. Stellaxis has also created an MMO game, SecOps, to keep the population at bay with online versions of all the soldiers. Players compete against each other in a virtual version of New Liberty City to get to the top of the daily leader board to be allied with & control a super-soldier until they are booted from the top spot on the leaderboard. Everyone streams their games in the hopes of landing sponsors to get better in-game gear to improve their rank as well as real-life goods such as water, food, or merch. Mallory & her BFF, Jessa, find a presumed “dead” soldier wandering around in the game, resulting in their stream going viral. They receive sponsorship from a mysterious sponsor that wants more than just entertaining gameplay. Mallory is tasked with investigating the circumstances & background of another one of the soldiers that have died in real life. Throughout the course of her investigation, Mallory unwittingly becomes the face of an uprising against Stellaxis corporation. What I liked: Firebreak is a wild ride. The dystopian world that is created by Nicole Kornher-Smith has a familiar feel but is incredibly unique. It is well written & the pacing of the plot is on point. I never felt bored or that there was filler that wasn’t integral to the story. As a gamer, I found the gaming aspect realistic & incredibly relevant to the current day Twitch & social media influencer world we live in. What I didn't: I needed more backstory. This is a selfish ask as the book probably would have hit 1000 pages to include all the things I wanted to know. I wanted to know how the corporations take over the US government. I want to know more about Mallory. I want to know more about the soldiers. I want to know what happens next. I’ve read several reviews comparing this to Ready Player One & I have to fully disagree. The only similarities between the two are only that: 1. It takes place in a dystopian future with a poor young adult/teenager 2. There is an MMO style video game And that is where the comparisons end. While I enjoyed Ready Player One, it was more focused on a fun nostalgia trip & the gaming aspect than the bleak dystopia of the world. Firebreak is the opposite. The MMO game in Firebreak is merely a vehicle to introduce the characters & the propaganda put forth by the powers in charge. Firebreak is a sci-fi dystopian blend of 1984, Hunger Games & Ready Player One & would make an excellent episode of Black Mirror. The story portrays a bleak dystopian future where corporations rule & the population is forced to ration basic needs in the name of corporate warfare. I am hoping for a prequel or sequel to Firebreak. *I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions included herein are my own.* Check out more reviews here! Instagram Twitter

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alexx

    Okay, this is hands down one of my top reads this 2021! CW: violence, kidnapping, torture, capitalism, police brutality Wow wow wow! I was excited to dive into this book, primarily because of two reasons: 1) the synopsis sounds so good! and 2) there is aro/ace rep. I didn't know what else to expect here in Firebreak. But now that I've finished it, I am just so in awe of it. The world-building is spot on and immersive, the writing style is so good, the characters (especially Mal) are compelling, th Okay, this is hands down one of my top reads this 2021! CW: violence, kidnapping, torture, capitalism, police brutality Wow wow wow! I was excited to dive into this book, primarily because of two reasons: 1) the synopsis sounds so good! and 2) there is aro/ace rep. I didn't know what else to expect here in Firebreak. But now that I've finished it, I am just so in awe of it. The world-building is spot on and immersive, the writing style is so good, the characters (especially Mal) are compelling, the plot is thrilling (hell, several plot twists knocked me off guard), even Mal's platonic crush is such a refreshing element, and overall, it's just such an irresistibly good book! Think Hunger Games, but with a VR war game, social media, and capitalist megacorporations that need to be dismantled. Queer SFF lovers, you need to add this to your TBRs! If I could rate this more than 5 stars, I would do so in a heartbeat. (Also, I can't help but think this would make such a good movie?!) Full review on my blog soon! A big thanks to Saga SFF/Gallery Books for sending an ARC my way! This, of course, did not affect my overall opinion of the book. Find me elsewhere: Instagram | Twitter | Blog

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I was provided an ARC through a GoodReads giveaway. I'll try to give an honest and as spoiler-free review as I can. I won't provide a synopsis except to say that if you're looking for a story similar to Ready Player One, you will be sorely disappointed because this is an actual story with teeth, heart, and blood. The main character is not fighting to win a competition to become the leader of a corporation and keep that wheel of dystopian capitalism going, and her friends aren't palling around in I was provided an ARC through a GoodReads giveaway. I'll try to give an honest and as spoiler-free review as I can. I won't provide a synopsis except to say that if you're looking for a story similar to Ready Player One, you will be sorely disappointed because this is an actual story with teeth, heart, and blood. The main character is not fighting to win a competition to become the leader of a corporation and keep that wheel of dystopian capitalism going, and her friends aren't palling around in virtual basements exchanging '80s references and winking. Kornher-Stace's storytelling here is masterful. She imagines a world in the not-distant future, where the world is ravaged by the effects of climate change and corporations legitimately and openly rule the world. She uses first-person present tense to give us the well-realized and fully formed Mal, who goes from introverted nobody who keeps her head down to full-on revolutionary. What strikes me most about Mal is how relatable and real she is. Her progression through the story never feels forced; her personality never takes such a wild turn to serve the story that her actions feel out of place. She is a genuinely good person thrust into an extremely dangerous situation, up against insanely bad odds. I also want to give BIG KUDOS for including a video game in a story that actually FEELS like a goddamn video game that people play (LOOKING AT YOU, RPO). I found out in the Acknowledgements section that the usernames were crowdsourced to get a better range of variety, which is insanely clever and demonstrates the commitment to telling a complete and fully realized story, where nothing feels out of place or superfluous. Fans of Archivist Wasp and its sequel Latchkey will fucking die from excitement. (I don't know how else to say it. Reading stuff in Mal's voice is clearly influencing this.) Once I figured out who the Operatives were, it made me want to run back and reread those books again. However, it's not necessary to have read those books to enjoy Firebreak to its fullest -- but honestly, just go read them. What's wrong with you? ALSO, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that THERE IS ZERO SHOEHORNED IN ROMANCE. Kornher-Stace is a champion of strong platonic relationships and this book is absolutely no exception. Honestly this is just so refreshing. You don't notice how often it happens in stories like these, books or movies or whatever, until it doesn't happen and you get a much stronger story because of it. Ultimately, this book is coming out at an amazing time. It reflects the harsh realities brought to light in the past year, realities that have been hidden for far too long, and it shines a warning light on where we're headed. I think that the messages Kornher-Stace leaves throughout the story are more meaningful because of the very personal way we hear them and experience them through Mal. And it's important because of the way Mal reacts. She's not a superhero. She's not a soldier. She's just a person -- just like you, just like me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Okay so I will read anything by Nicole Kornher-Stace but from Saga press? Acquired by Navah Wolfe? The quote from Navah is "[Beyond] the fully-realized, terrifying world—it’s the friendship between the protagonist and her best friend, the ladybromance at the heart of this story,” she said. “Give me a great friendship story, and you’ve got my heart"? I am THERE. Okay so I will read anything by Nicole Kornher-Stace but from Saga press? Acquired by Navah Wolfe? The quote from Navah is "[Beyond] the fully-realized, terrifying world—it’s the friendship between the protagonist and her best friend, the ladybromance at the heart of this story,” she said. “Give me a great friendship story, and you’ve got my heart"? I am THERE.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    Corporate greed and malfeasance in a future world is an easy sell, mainly because both have been around as long as a group/organization/company decided to make a quick buck off the backs of everyone else, while mistreating their workers. (*cough, cough* Amazon!) I mean, Stellaxis and Greenleaf, which are the mega corps in this story. Mal and Jessa, two twenty-somethings, live in a hotel along with many others, paying for tiny amounts of water, and buying food from company stores, and being conne Corporate greed and malfeasance in a future world is an easy sell, mainly because both have been around as long as a group/organization/company decided to make a quick buck off the backs of everyone else, while mistreating their workers. (*cough, cough* Amazon!) I mean, Stellaxis and Greenleaf, which are the mega corps in this story. Mal and Jessa, two twenty-somethings, live in a hotel along with many others, paying for tiny amounts of water, and buying food from company stores, and being connected, always, to the internet. And living the gig work life, barely scraping by and making some extra cash livestreaming their activities in a massive, multiplayer game. And where the two can make extra cash if they are lucky enough to encounter one of the few remaining (and living) special operatives created by Stellaxis to fight Greenleaf mechs in an ever-ongoing war in their massive city. It’s a totally sucky life, and Mal and Jessa would still be doing so, and enthusing over the exploits of the SpecOps, if they hadn’t been recruited by a woman who said she would sponsor them to locate all the still living SpecOps' avatars in the game. Sounds great, and pretty soon, Mal and Jessa have twenty gallons of water to their names (more than they have ever had), and they find SpecOps 08 in-game, and suddenly things start to go wrong for the pair. Mal and Jessa unmask the evils done by the evil corporations and with the dirty, terrible secrets coming to light, the corporations fight back, despite people protesting the injustices getting killed, cuz the bottom line and an uninformed public are all that matter. Hmmm, am I talking future world, or today?...... Anyway, there were a bunch of ideas in this book, and some great in-game action. I loved that Mal is aromantic and asexual, and that Mal and Jessa’s friendship is central to the book. That said, I never got a good sense of Jessa, except she was a serious SpecOps nerd, and fantastic at positioning their livestream recordings. I mostly liked the book, though I started checking out a little 3/4 in. I think that’s more due to being in yet another shutdown thanks to the pandemic, and my attention span having been whittled down, month by month.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    I really love dystopian thriller books set in the future. This book also has a bit of a sci-fi element too. This was set in 2134 where there are only 45 US states remaining because they were lost to rising water levels. I would not say this is a main character that is central to the story, but Mal seems to be the reluctant hero. There are two large global companies that control everything: food, water, electricity, utilities, etc. A few people that are computer hackers are trying to fight back a I really love dystopian thriller books set in the future. This book also has a bit of a sci-fi element too. This was set in 2134 where there are only 45 US states remaining because they were lost to rising water levels. I would not say this is a main character that is central to the story, but Mal seems to be the reluctant hero. There are two large global companies that control everything: food, water, electricity, utilities, etc. A few people that are computer hackers are trying to fight back against the large corporations, what could possibly go wrong? This was better than I thought it was going to be and was kind of frightening. What if that happens to our future generations? Scary and relatable. This just did not strike me as much because of other thrillers and nonfiction I have been reading, but still a solid read. Thanks to Netgalley, Nicole Kohmer-Stace and Gallery Book Saga Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 5/4/21

  22. 4 out of 5

    trishla ⚡ | YourLocalBookReader

    5 stars. "Does it make it better, what she did, if she was only following orders when she did it? Fuck if I know that, either. " This book was described as Ready Player 1 meets streaming and I have to say it hit ALL the marks for me. I really felt so immersed in this story from the very first line. Maybe it's seeing the "hustle and gig economies" crumple my friends, maybe it's the fact that collecting rainwater is illegal in many states under the guise of safety. Maybe it's the fact that over t 5 stars. "Does it make it better, what she did, if she was only following orders when she did it? Fuck if I know that, either. " This book was described as Ready Player 1 meets streaming and I have to say it hit ALL the marks for me. I really felt so immersed in this story from the very first line. Maybe it's seeing the "hustle and gig economies" crumple my friends, maybe it's the fact that collecting rainwater is illegal in many states under the guise of safety. Maybe it's the fact that over the last year I've seen more protests and the utter weight of feeling hopeless and realizing that swapping one corporate overlord for another isn't really a change. Maybe it's the fact that this book isn't too far from what's happening in the world right now. But wow, I found myself seeing bleekness through all new lenses. If you're looking for a happy ending - I wouldn't go for this one. If you're looking to be entertained with pop culture references, this ain't the one. However, if you're looking for a book that covers what happens when corporation take control (it's slower and faster than you think) this is the one. Mal, the MC, just wants to go through her life with her 3 jobs until she sees a truth that she can't ignore. It costs her everything. She goes from an upstanding (read: conforming) citizen until she fights back for what she believes in and while this book tries to end on a hopeful note, I only have to wonder for how long until a drone strike happens to take her out. This book gripes you from the very first chapter and refuses to let you go. I hope everyone reads this and realizes that action is necessary, but martyrdom is rarely as glorious as it sounds. Find me on: instagram The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amber Slagle

    2.5 stars I love dystopian stories and the premise of this book is great, but I struggled with this book. Part of this book is about Mal gaming. I appreciate games, but I guess I don't want to watch or read about people gaming. I also didn't fully understand what was going on with the NPC. The dialog was awkward. This book felt like a YA book that says the "F" word a lot. I have no problem with swearing, but it was overkill. Thanks Netgalley and publisher for the digital copy in exchange for my h 2.5 stars I love dystopian stories and the premise of this book is great, but I struggled with this book. Part of this book is about Mal gaming. I appreciate games, but I guess I don't want to watch or read about people gaming. I also didn't fully understand what was going on with the NPC. The dialog was awkward. This book felt like a YA book that says the "F" word a lot. I have no problem with swearing, but it was overkill. Thanks Netgalley and publisher for the digital copy in exchange for my honest review!

  24. 5 out of 5

    patri

    the chillingly awesome concept and rad aroace rep! the atmospheric cyberpunk anti-utopian aesthetic! the ragingly choleric anti-capitalist critique! the all-too-relatable, realistically rounded-out and righteously angry characters! that climax? this was memorable and mind-blowing for all the reasons, but the cliffhanger the author abandoned us with? might be a chargeable crime

  25. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The best near-future novels always have some plot points that are already incubating out in the real world -- Firebreak hits the mark for me. The main character Mal is underemployed in a gig economy, desperately trying to make ends meet in a world overtly governed by corrupt mega-corporations. The media plays a role in keeping the masses poor and uninformed. Climate change has resulted in most of the coastal cities being underwater. It feels very plausible, which always amplifies the impact in t The best near-future novels always have some plot points that are already incubating out in the real world -- Firebreak hits the mark for me. The main character Mal is underemployed in a gig economy, desperately trying to make ends meet in a world overtly governed by corrupt mega-corporations. The media plays a role in keeping the masses poor and uninformed. Climate change has resulted in most of the coastal cities being underwater. It feels very plausible, which always amplifies the impact in this genre. I can understand the comparison to Ready Player One, but Firebreak is much grittier and way less nostalgic. The first half of the novel leans heavily on the virtual reality game that everyone plays, but it becomes essentially irrelevant as real-world action picks up midway through the book. Because of the way events unfold, it makes sense to not mention the game anymore, but I was disappointed we never revisited that part of the world. There were a few unexplained events, particularly related to the NPC AI (e.g why did in-game 08 know the name Elena?) The zippy pacing is classically YA, which worked really well for the story. There were a few points where I was *sure* there would be plot twist, but they never mainfested. Any of the major "reveals" are more of a slow burn rather than anything truly shocking. Even though I was disappointed my "plot twist" guessing skills were thwarted at every turn, it worked well for the tone of the book. The slow snowballing of small realizations mirrors Mal's mounting exhaustion, hopelessness, and despair. It isn't all doom and gloom by the end, but it's certainly a diminished hope. *** I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    Excellent ideas, not as excellent execution. In the 2120s, the United States has been divided and sold off to corporations when the government could no longer afford to run it. Through a series of buyouts, what’s left of the country after climate disaster is now divided between two corporations who control all the water and food production. Customer-citizens live in the buildings left standing after the war between the two corporations and spend their meager earnings on purchasing water, food, an Excellent ideas, not as excellent execution. In the 2120s, the United States has been divided and sold off to corporations when the government could no longer afford to run it. Through a series of buyouts, what’s left of the country after climate disaster is now divided between two corporations who control all the water and food production. Customer-citizens live in the buildings left standing after the war between the two corporations and spend their meager earnings on purchasing water, food, and healthcare. Collecting your own water or growing your own food is punishable as an act of terror. The main character, Mal, spends most of her spare time playing a video game with her best friend Jessa, where she’s able to make extra money from sponsors. From there, things start getting confusing, but basically, they uncover the corporations' secrets and try to break free of the company chains. What I liked about this book: Mal was a fun character and I appreciated her friendship with Jessa (although it was hard to pin down just how good of a friendship it was until about halfway through the book). The world-building was good and I thought the ideas behind the novel were excellent. What I disliked: The majority of the storyline seemed to be random occurrences that Mal happened to find herself in. There was very little of the plot that was driven forward solely by her means, and sometimes it seemed like she was driving the plot forward but it would be fast-forwarded by something random, like the rain. It also read a little like a YA novel, but with a lot of swearing. The videogame aspect was interesting and well-written but it just dropped off three-quarters of the way through and basically didn’t get mentioned again. According to the blurb, I thought Mal and 22 would be together for most of the book but they were only actually together on-page for the last 50 or so pages, which made it difficult for me to really be invested in their friendship or their outcome. The ending itself was really vague and I’m still unclear on who Mal was speaking to or what could have happened after it cut to black. Someone who loves dystopian novels would probably enjoy this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    I was so pumped when I was granted a copy from Netgalley. TYSM! I started it right away and burned through it. - Spoiler free review - It was written in a way that kept me turning pages. I had to know what was causing these people to be living in this type of dystopian world. For me, I would call it a mystery. Not a 'whodunit mystery', but a 'why is this happening mystery' that had me dying to figure it out. There is a Virtual Reality world but it isn't the kind where you enter the avatar of an O I was so pumped when I was granted a copy from Netgalley. TYSM! I started it right away and burned through it. - Spoiler free review - It was written in a way that kept me turning pages. I had to know what was causing these people to be living in this type of dystopian world. For me, I would call it a mystery. Not a 'whodunit mystery', but a 'why is this happening mystery' that had me dying to figure it out. There is a Virtual Reality world but it isn't the kind where you enter the avatar of an Orc or Fae and do quests. Our MC uses VR as income versus pleasure, streaming their time in the war game as they try to reach the leader board and make rare discoveries. This gives them income, store credits and an audience which is a great form of communication in this dystopian world. A few complaints, one would be that I didn't understand how they interacted with the virtual world. No keyboards, no sensors following your body movements. Seems like they lie in bed and their implants and eye lens are able to accomplish so much. I found that a bit unrealistic or maybe incomplete in details. I also didn't understand how life got so bad. We were told it was because the competing companies that owned America were warring but the citizens where our MC lives, seem to be worse off than most. Why are the citizens of Old Town suffering so much more so, than the neighboring areas? [ETA: I am remembering that early in the book they said that both of the companies had headquarters there so there was a lot more tension than in other areas] And maybe my last complaint is that the author repeated herself quite a bit. Many details were on repeat and as mentioned above other details could of been expanded on. Our MC was refreshing. She is aromantic and asexual. Her orientation is a non-issue and not discussed but you get a good sense of it. It is awesome to have all her great traits come through without having them take backseat to the hunt for a sexual relationship in the story. The author is definitely talented, she created a multi-layered story and I will be hunting for her past work and keeping an eye on her future work. -------------- author blog post: http://nicolekornherstace.com/2021/05...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ariel (ariel_reads)

    Marketed as similar to Ready Player One with a VR/dystopian setting, this book was that and more. Firebreak is pretty comparable to Ready Player One only in the fact that there's a massive VR element with a few changes like a streaming/ subscriber element. The real focus centers around a very realistic corporate greed, and this aspect is presented very well. We follow Mal, your average person who struggles to make ends meet, and she goes on a Neo-like Matrix adventure where she discovers a huge Marketed as similar to Ready Player One with a VR/dystopian setting, this book was that and more. Firebreak is pretty comparable to Ready Player One only in the fact that there's a massive VR element with a few changes like a streaming/ subscriber element. The real focus centers around a very realistic corporate greed, and this aspect is presented very well. We follow Mal, your average person who struggles to make ends meet, and she goes on a Neo-like Matrix adventure where she discovers a huge conspiracy of social control that's beyond everything she could've thought was real. This is a really good book overall. It is well written, I loved the aromatic/ace rep, and even in its most depressing moments the realism was still poignant and meaningful. The chapters felt a little long at times, but if you're in the mood for a corporate rebellion in a very realistic near-future dystopia, I'd definitely recommend Firebreak. Thank you so much Gallery/Saga Press and Netgalley for a copy of this eArc in exchange for an honest review!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leaf Grabenstetter

    If you, like me, absolutely adored Archivist Wasp and Latchkey, and were always niggled by the tantalizing fragments of a world almost like our own, where the ghost may have come from and how it all fell apart... here it is, and it’s glorious. What Kornher-Stace has done here, writing a post-apocalypse backwards to its origin, is like nothing I’ve read anywhere else.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    5/7/2021 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 5/7/2021 (several hours later) This book reads like a corporate war manga as told from the perspective of the plucky ace/aro civilian sidekick who's the bridge between the corporate super soldiers/heroes and the public kept in the dark about what the evil megacorps are doing, both to the super soldiers (called SpecOps here and given only numbers as identifiers) and to the general populace. Mal is your typical 22nd century 5/7/2021 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 5/7/2021 (several hours later) This book reads like a corporate war manga as told from the perspective of the plucky ace/aro civilian sidekick who's the bridge between the corporate super soldiers/heroes and the public kept in the dark about what the evil megacorps are doing, both to the super soldiers (called SpecOps here and given only numbers as identifiers) and to the general populace. Mal is your typical 22nd century 20 year-old, long orphaned in a corporate war, juggling several gig jobs to survive while sharing what was once a hotel room with at least five other people. One of her jobs is live streaming play in BestLife, the massively multiplayer online game where she struggles to make a dent in the leaderboards while playing the War version (as opposed to the Fantasy or Sci-fi settings.) The War version is mapped to the real world where she lives, with the main draw of the setting -- besides providing an outlet for people jonesing for realistic violence -- being the occasional sightings of the dozen SpecOps NPCs, based on the corporate androids developed by Stellaxis, the corporation that controls water, to combat the mechas of Greenleaf, the rival corporation that controls food. The SpecOps are both elusive and wildly popular, with fanbases and lines of merchandise both in-game and in the real world. After Mal streams a sighting of 28, she and her best friend and teammate Jessa are summoned by an unknown sponsor to get more up-close footage of the SpecOps. Thing is, their new sponsor B is convinced that the SpecOps aren't highly realistic androids at all but are actually kids Stellaxis got away with kidnapping and experimenting on because everyone who knew them had died in one of the many devastating attacks on Stellaxis land. At first, Mal and Jessa refuse to believe B, but take the job because she's paying in water rations, probably the most valuable currency in New Liberty City. But when B disappears, and Mal runs into the real-life versions of 06 and 22 while looking for her, the two friends realize that maybe Stellaxis hasn't been telling the entire truth after all, and that there's far more to B's story than they'd previously acknowledged. Mal makes for an unusual heroine: kind but antisocial, determined but not the smartest. Her crush on 22 is never really explained, but she has a hard time explaining herself generally. And honestly sometimes who can explain a crush! Her strongest trait is the fact that she'll push herself past the point of exhaustion in order to do what's right, even in the face of overwhelming odds (with my one quibble being that anyone who regularly hikes up and down 6 flights of stairs on the daily has no business calling themselves out of shape, not unless it's a struggle every time.) Fortunately, Mal is surrounded and supported by some real badasses, including the irrepressible Jessa, as she sets about fomenting a revolution and getting to the bottom of what Stellaxis is doing both to New Liberty City and to her beloved 22. The social commentary was easily my favorite part of this book, as Nicole Kornher-Stace criticizes the idea of corporate-owned nation-states and the ways in which capitalism and fascism intersect. I also loved that she emphasizes a lesson I've only learned in the last year or so, that the adage "a poor craftsman blames his tools" is as much smug bullshit as "money can't buy happiness." Bad tools are a handicap in the same way that modern poverty is: not only do they make you think you're a bad craftsman/undeserving person, they also actively discourage you from trying harder and discovering your true potential. Good tools can be life-changing, and anyone who pretends otherwise is protecting entrenched interests at the expense of everyone else. That said, Firebreak does suffer from the fact that Mal often feels more like a supporting character than a main. I loved the #OwnVoices representation but found Mal's awkward, antisocial personality difficult to mesh with. And that's fine! She'll definitely connect with lots of people who aren't me, and the ideas and plot of the book otherwise are both thought-provoking and entertaining, tho it certainly helped to keep in mind the manga concept as I read. Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace was published May 4 2021 by Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including Bookshop!.

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