Indie Feature Friday: Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

I’ve gone and lost track of days again, so let’s just start out by pretending it’s still Friday!

In the last few weeks I’ve been working my way through my collection of Indie Cyberpunk Novels and I have been so pleasantly surprised by all the great work in this genre.

First was Grinders by C.S. Boyack, which is the perfect blend of cyberpunk and detective tropes. I was instantly hooked by the glittery high-tech world and the perfectly balanced dynamic between Jimi Cabot and her partner on the police force. I couldn’t put it down. Although it is different in tone, Grinders is the novel that inspired me to write my own cybernoir detective series, and is directly responsible for the birth of Bubbles in Space. I cannot recommend it enough!

Next I read Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin, which is a quick, easy read with great world building and a diverse cast of characters. It’s the kind of book you can pick up and devour in a single sitting when you just want some fun, action packed entertainment. Sci-Fi flavoured candy at its best!

And now we have something a little bit different again.

This one is a serious page-turner…

Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

The Plot

In a future world ruled by warring mega-corporations, cyborg Nephilim believed she was fighting a righteous cause.

As a powerful, genetically and cybernetically enhanced elite soldier her brutal and violent life is not truly her own – until one day, a simple glitch separates her from the grid.

For the first time in her young life, she is free…and she has doubts. Doubts that bury deeper into her psyche when she meets Jake, a mysterious, 100% bio-human.

He opens her neon-blue eyes to the lies she had been exposed to all her life. Questioning everything she has ever known, Nephilim resolves to take a stand. To hold on to this freedom, she has miraculously discovered. But can one person, no matter how strong, beat an all-powerful system of oppression? Soon, Nephilim finds herself hunted by her own people in a deadly game of survival…

For fans of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Altered Carbon!

My Review

This book has been on my radar for a while, as I follow Anna Mocikat on Instagram and Twitter. Behind Blue Eyes has been consistently well placed in the Cyberpunk charts and fans literally RAVE about it at every opportunity.

So, I admit, my expectations were pretty high going in.

Mocikat does not disappoint!

Behind Blue Eyes is fantastic. It manages to hit all of the major genre themes, and still to be completely different from the last two indie cyberpunk novels I have reviewed. It is dark, gritty, and violent with a strong sexual undertones. A very different mood than Grinders or Into Neon.

There is quite a bit of world-building at the beginning of the novel and it took me a few chapters to get into the flow of the story, but once I did it was like being caught in a riptide.

Mocikat is a masterful plotter working in an intricate world with complex characters.

One of my favourite things about Behind Blue Eyes is the evolution of Nephilim’s character as the secrets of her world are revealed. She is a seriously badass cyborg warrior, and this could easily have turned into a Mary-Sue type character who just can’t seem to do anything wrong. But Mocikat manages to bring Niphilim’s humanity front and centre, and the plot focusses on her vulnerabilities rather than her physical invincibility, so that even though she’s literally built for world domination, she is constantly coming up against conflicts she isn’t prepared to handle.

I also really appreciate that, although there is a romantic subplot, and there are a lot of sexy themes being explored, Mocikat never delves into “steamy romance” territory. Full disclosure: I am not a romance fan. Really detailed sex scenes always make me cringe, and books with too many of them usually end up in my DNF pile. Mocikat handles it very well, and I think the sexual themes were all the more titillating because they were hinted at rather than being shoved in your face. I mean, sex is everywhere in the book, and the blasé attitudes of the characters toward it was refreshing in itself. But Mocikat leaves the actual squidgy parts up to our imaginations (thank you!)

In Nephilim’s exploration of her humanity (as a genetically engineered cyborg) Mocikat really digs into one of the most interesting themes in cyberpunk literature: where do we draw the link between (wo)man and machine? What makes any of us human? This really added a layer of emotional satisfaction to Nephilim’s character arc, and I will absolutely be diving into the next book, Fallen Angels.

If you love books and don’t have time to read these days, Mocikat has just dropped the audiobook for Behind Blue Eyes on Amazon’s Audible, and it’s been getting awesome reviews as well.

Discussion

Have you read Behind Blue Eyes? What did you think? Is this one you’ll be adding to your TBR list? If you have a favourite cyberpunk novel, please share it in the comments!

44 thoughts on “Indie Feature Friday: Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

  1. Frankly, I think you give this book too much praise. It’s not that good, in my opinion. For one thing, Nephilim and Jake’s relationship I feel is under developed, not to mention mushy. You had to have felt that way, too.

    1. Oh! I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like it! I have read a lot of indie books this year and I only review the ones that I feel are worth reading. I’m not in the business of trashing other indie authors, so I simply don’t review the books I don’t think were well done.

      Behind Blue Eyes is a well edited, professional product. It has a solid plot and character development. I felt the pacing was great and the themes were explored consistently.

      There are always aspects of any book that aren’t to my personal taste. Romance is one of mine. I don’t feel I’m a good judge of it, since I really just don’t enjoy romance 😂 But other readers love it. I also tend not to enjoy long, detailed action scenes. But other readers love that stuff, too. So I try to keep personal likes/dislikes out of my reviews in order to help readers find the books that they enjoy.

      Was the romance mushy? Sure. Most of them are. I personally preferred the dark romance theme between Nephilim and Megatron. I know a lot of readers loved the romance subplot in this book, though. Not every book is for every reader. I hope my reviews will help the right readers find the right books ☺️

      1. You spelled “Metatron as “Megatron”, just pointing it out. It does kind of sound like “Megatron” though, just with one different letter. Transformers fan?

        1. Lmao! I didn’t even notice that 😂🤣😂 I have seen a lot of transformers in my day. It actually took me a few chapters reading to realize it wasn’t Megaton. I did consciously try to remember for the blog post, even! Doesn’t help that my autocorrect knows all about Megatron but think Metatron is a made up word 🤣 I’m on the fence about whether I should fix it or not, now.

          1. Probably shouldn’t worry. I mistyped a word in one of my comments also.

  2. Sounds like you really enjoyed it. As always, I appreciate the nod and am proud to help you find your muse. These stories usually have a soapbox of some kind. I tried to touch upon mine without beating it into readers’ heads. Sounds like this one did it the same way.

    1. Yes, definitely! I think of them as kind of cautionary tales. We aren’t too far off a lot of these dystopian Sci-Fi themes.

  3. Cool reviews. I’ve only read one of those featured, but have to save that Grinders ranks among one of my favorite in this genre. So inventive and imaginative. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It’s definitely been my favourite so far! I really think more people need to be reading it 😂 So I’m just young to keep shouting until the people hear me! Visibility is tough in this indie publishing gig.

  4. Great review! Sounds like an intriguing read:) Grinders is a favorite of mine in this genre! I hope more people read it.

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I have “Grinders” on my TBR list waiting for me and I look forward to it. This one grabs my attention and I will most likely add it to my list.

    1. Enjoy!! They are very different books, but I really liked both of them for different reasons ☺️

  6. I do not hate it, like I think it’s the worst book I’ve ever read, I just don’t think it’s that great, maybe a 3 star book in my opinion. I just don’t think Nephilim and Jake had a proper buildup, their relationship pretty much happens in 1 night, and the relationship feels forced, not natural. I can’t feel the chemistry between them. The reader has to feel the chemistry between the two, don’t they? I also feel the whole purgatory club subplot was stupid, except for (spoiler), Nephilim saving Finwick from the implant harvesters, which I thought was a cool sequence, but could have benefited more for the gang having tougher fighters for Nephilim to fight, like an Adam Smasher type.(end spoilers). The second book is a little better than the 1st, though.

    1. I haven’t read it yet! But I will.

      I’m always torn with star ratings for indie books because our resources are fewer (or cost prohibitive). I tend to be more flexible than with traditionally published titles, which had teams of editors in addition to the writer to tighten things up.

      As I work my way through more indie books, I really appreciate the authors who have made an obvious effort to learn and apply story structure and character development to their work.

      It’s great to see growth in a writer, too! I look forward to reading the next one.

  7. I will go so far as to say Jake was my least favorite character in book 1.

    1. Yes, he’s a little too perfect for my tastes. Finwick was my favourite!

      1. To be honest, I’d think a love story between Finwick and Nephilim could have been possible, if given the right buildup, Jake literally falls right into the story halfway in, and presto, he’s the love interst. At least that’s my opinion. I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something. I’m not usually this nitpicky. I just feel this is the most jarring part of the book, and other parts, the non-romantic parts, are pretty good. It’s like this book had two writers, although I’m sure it didn’t.

        1. I would have been more into that. I like a good flawed character and relationship.

          But Jake and Nephilim’s relationship doesn’t follow the standard “romance” pattern. That’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy romance. It often feels a bit shallow and unrealistic.

          I know the author actually prefers not to write romance, too. So this might be a reflection of her not feeling comfortable.

  8. I don’t like romance as a whole genre, but I don’t mind it as a subplot if the characters have believable chemistry, and it’s not too in your face. If Anna Mocikat doesn’t like romance, she could have easily not put any romance in the book at all, if anything, her making the romance too in your face with no buildup made it worse. But we could argue about this all day, and I won’t. If I may say, I sometimes got the feeling that the guardian angels came off like vampires, in a way. Maybe it was the dark clothing they wore, I’m not sure. What do you think?

    1. The cover does have a bit of the Underworld vibe! (Speaking of poorly developed romance subplots 😂)

  9. I wouldn’t know, I never watched underworld, but the cyberpunk meets gothic scenery , which I think is described in the book, is interesting.

    1. Yes I like the gothic stylings she brought to the world. I cyberpunk vampire story would be really cool!

  10. On deviantart.com, there are some drawings of what, are pretty much, cyborg vampires.

  11. Plus some other drawings of cool, intimidating looking, cyborg characters. Just in case you’re interested. I don’t know if you visit deviantart.com or not.

    1. Thank you! I will check it out! I have a Pinterest image saved that is a cyborg vampire but I wasn’t able to find a source link. I bet it’s on deviant art, though! I haven’t visited there in a while.

  12. Sorry if my first comment on your review seemed harsh. I was just expressing my opinion, and sorry if I came off too opinionated. Who knows? Maybe when I first got it, I thought I would like it as much as other books I liked, only for the second half of the book to be something I wasn’t expecting, or what I wanted. Maybe the book is great, and I’m just not seeing it, or maybe we all just have strong, differing opinions and points of view. I am just disappointed because there are parts of the book I do like, I just wish I could like all of it, and the problem is in Mocikat’s Shadow City books, too. All in all, I have 4 of her books, or 5 if you count the Neo-Cyberpunk anthology. If the 4, I liked the first shadow city book and the second behind blue eyes book the most, and the first behind blue eyes book, and the second shadow city book the least. I pretty much skipped to the end of the second shadow city book, Dark City. Anyway, again, sorry if I came on too strong.

  13. Maybe, MAYBE, I might read behind blue eyes books 1 and 2 again. Maybe my opinion will soften, but I do not think it will. Let’s hope.👍

    1. You definitely don’t have to apologize for your opinion on a book! Each person can have a completely different reading experience based what else they’ve read and what their expectations are going into it.

      The reviews of indie books on my blog I come at knowing that they are independently published (and the various struggles that this entails, because I’ve been there 😅) So I tend to be a lot more forgiving of things that might turn me off of a traditionally published book. And I like to discuss the things I liked without critiquing the way I might a trad book, or if I was given something to beta read by an author looking for feedback.

      So while readers are always welcome to their opinions, I prefer to stay neutral -> positive. If I can’t do that, I simply don’t review the book ☺️

      I think if you’re familiar with Mocikat’s work, and you didn’t enjoy it that’s totally valid! I know I have 1-2 star ratings on my books, too, lol. Sometimes books and readers just don’t jive. That’s okay. Patrick Rosthfuss’s writing makes my skin crawl, and he is one of the most beloved fantasy writers of all time 😂 To each their own!

  14. I don’t know if the romance is mushy, but Jake, in my opinion, said a few romantic lines to Nephilim that I felt were too overly dramatic, like he was a character in a romance novel, and that was the part I could not stand. The sequence where Nephilim thinks about him was also something I did not like, like she went from being this badass character to a princess in a fairy tale pining for her prince. At least that is how I feel. I was also annoyed by them having sex in every other scene they were together in. It wasn’t explicit, I know, but it was too much for me at least, and I don’t mind any sex scenes in books. Jake, to me, at least in most of the book, seemed like a bland boy toy. Thought I should clear that up. But whatever you think of it is fine. Although I’m not sure if I myself will buy any more of Mocikat’s novels. Others are free to buy them of course, but I don’t know if I will put myself through the annoying parts, even if the other parts are good.

    1. I think that’s totally fair ☺️ This is the only one of hers I’ve read yet, but I do have book 2 on my kindle! I have to get through all the others on my original post before I can start tackling new ones, though.

      1. I’m thinking if they did an adaptation of BBE, I think it would be better if they give it a different title, so no one would mistake it for a WHO film. And maybe make it a faithful enough, but not too faithful adaptation. It could benefit from taking out the romance, at least that’s how I feel. It could be called, “Blue Death”, or something. But it is all up to the author, of course. I keep imagining Andrew Koji playing Nephilim, if they theoretically turn Nephilim into a male character in a theoretical adaptation. Though I don’t personally agree with changing, at least the gender of a character, for an adaptation. Andrew Koji is the actor who plays Ah Sahm in warrior, just letting you know, in case you’ve heard of it or not. I never fully watched the series, just 1 or 2 whole episodes. Maybe he come to mind because he’s half British, half Japanese, and Nephilim is half caucasian, half asian. I guess he seems like he could pull off that dark, brooding goth look.

        1. Yes, it’s the first Mocikat I’ve read!

          I’m not familiar with Warrior, but I looked up Andrew Koji. I can see where you’re coming from… interesting idea! It would make a great film adaptation. I can’t think of any actresses that would suit the role.

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