I received a review copy of Neon Leviathan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to T.R. Napper and Grimdark Magazine.
From my Goodreads profile, you will see that I write for Grimdark Magazine. However, I have nothing to do with this release and I’ve treated this novel as I would if it was from any other publisher. I knew nothing about the author T.R. Napper and I wasn’t that familiar with the grim-side end of cyberpunk but hell, I jumped headfirst into this deep daunting apocalyptically presented future and dived in to see what was waiting for me there.
“The sea is vast and eternal. It has no malice, but it does have raw, unimaginable power. It is indifferent to human suffering.”
This is a short story collection featuring twelves tales. They are all by the same author and all set in the same world. They don’t take place in order yet they all take place approaching or just after 2090. Neon Leviathan is brutal cyberpunk character-focused futuristic fantasy that is harrowing and haunting. Honestly, it’s not far away from our current reality however grim and horrible it seems. It’s violent, sweary, and full of honourable heroes who get fucked and leaders who seem to be winners because they have the confidence yet no competence.
“The incident was yet another reason why I never understood the world. A bully can ply his trade for years, breaking down his peers psychologically and physically; turning the years of adolescence into a long, drawn out form of torture that some kids take a lifetime to get over. But you break that bully’s jaw with a cricket bat, and you’re the bad guy.”
The main underlining important event is that there has been a war where China has been fighting against a Vietnamese and Australian coalition. The rest of the world, for all we know, doesn’t exist anymore.
The short stories are mostly between 20-30 pages. There are 12 in total. Favourites of mine included the opener Flame Trees, Opium for Ezra (which is a mindfuck!), Jack’s Fine Dining and also The Line (featuring George – the only player who frequents two of the stories).
The two finest entries are towards the end of the presentation. Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang which I found out in the afterwards is a Writers of the Future award-winning story. It’s incredible. All I’ll say is you would not mess with Lynn! There are 12 stories here. 9 of them have been posted elsewhere before in short story collections including those presented by Interzone, Asimov’s, Galaxy’s of the Edge, and Writers of the Future. The finest entry by a country mile is exclusive and it’s by far the longest tale in the release. The Weight of the Air, the Weight of the Earth. It’s around 100 pages or so and really makes you question reality, and possibilities and control and had dystopian elements rivaling those featured in 1984. In this story there was one section in particular that I really related to that has happened to me recently #now… not 100 years in the future. The tales are full of lots of cyberpunk gadgets and gizmos but these stories are presenting events that are more about humans than they are about technology. About how humans, certain people at least, mostly our leaders will do all the can for complete control.
Neon Leviathan is brutal, often rude, crude, with Aussie slang included occasionally. The good guys often get fucked. These tales seemed really well researched from all directions talking about Chinese Emperors to mentioning comic book issues of Batman. The author is a future talent guaranteed. His finest outing, as mentioned, was the longest story here so Napper, give us a full-length novel, sir. Recommend!