I’ve got a gruesome one for you today, if you’re a sci-fi AND a horror fan.
I just read an incredible indie cyberpunk novel, and it is not for the faint of heart. Read on if you dare…
Ten Sigma by A.W. Wang
In future America, the downloaded consciousnesses in the Ten Sigma Program fight endless battles. The struggles span all possibilities: face-offs with knives and clubs, skirmishes as Roman legionaries, pitched WW1 trench warfare, duels with ultra-modern hypersonic weapons, and everything in between.
The combatants who live are rewarded with another battle until they reach the unreachable score of ten sigmas. Those who die are expunged from the system, gone forever. The methods, so harsh they go beyond anything possible in the real world, are necessary for the end goal: violent evolution to produce the greatest warriors in all of human history.
Who would choose such a fate?
Those with no hope.
On a wintry night, a government representative presents Mary, who is dying of incurable cancer, with the offer: a second chance at life and for those completing the requirements, a return to the real world in a fresh, healthy body. To save her family from bankrupting medical bills, she accepts.
After her consciousness is transferred into the virtual universe of the program, her essence is ripped apart and her memories shattered. She’s reassembled as the perfect killer.
As the life-and-death contests begin, she discovers the true nature of what lies ahead. But, she won’t surrender to the impossible and grimly embarks on the journey to return to her family while trying to save her soul.
This series is billed as a Military Sci-Fi Adventure, and it certainly is that. But I’m including it in my “cyberpunk” book reviews, because I think its got a lot of the relevant themes in place.
That, and a dash of holy sh*t batman what did I just read?!?
When I finished this book, I closed my kindle and just set it aside for a second with my mouth hanging open like an idiot. It was a wild ride.
Is it cyberpunk? Yes, but it almost doesn’t feel like it because so much takes place in a simulated training environment. Wang shows of his knowledge of historical warfare with battle scenes spanning centuries and cultures from around the globe.
Now, I have to admit, I usually hate reading lots of action scenes back to back. My eyes glaze over when authors describe endless blow-by-blow combat scenes. And yet this book kept me completely riveted.
First, while there are countless fight scenes, each one is completely different with unique goals and challenges, so it never feels like too much. Second, the character development is so exquisitely done that I was completely invested in every fight and had to know what happened next.
Ten Sigma follows a woman’s loss of self as she becomes a highly trained killing machine. Her ever changing relationships with the other characters and the AI avatars that run the simulations are really what drive the plot.
Wang also pulls off a feat I always love to see which is that in this massively complex story, literally every detail he includes is important. It all comes back full circle and nothing is forgotten. It was such a satisfying read.
Word of warning, though. This book is absolutely brutal. The fight scenes, the sex scenes, everything is, in the immortal words of Anthony Burgess, Ultra-Violent. People do pretty much every horrifying thing people can do to each other. Not for the faint of heart.
If you love intense, fast-paced action, detailed fight scenes, high stakes plots, and infuriating intrigue (I mean that in the best way), this is for you.
But wait, there’s more!
I have already bought the next two books in this series, and I understand there are to be at least three more… so if you’re a fan of longer series, you definitely need to get started!
How do you feel about violence in novels? I’m pretty hard to shake, but I don’t go out of my way to read gory books. I much prefer to be scared/grossed out by my own imagination. One book that I read recently that really stuck with me was Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch. It was also brutal, and yet… I could not look away…
Hit me with some sci-fi horror suggestions!