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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Book review: Thrill Switch by Tim Hawken

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Hawken is a literary hooligan from Western Australia who writes dark sci-fi and fantasy. He is a 2-times winner of the AHWA’s Flash Fiction Competition, has been shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award twice, and likes to add a twist of wicked humour to his work. His debut Hellbound Trilogy was a cult hit, which garnered attention from Hollywood, including being pitched to Netflix by producers for a series adaptation.

Tim has recently contributed to best-selling books such as Dear Santa, Dear Dad and Dear Mum, and released a literary fiction novel under the pen name T.S. Hawken.

Tim posts a 100-word, art-inspired story most days on Instagram (@tim_hawken). You can find more about him and his work at timhawken.com

Publisher: Seahawk Press (October 29, 2022) Length: 228 pages Formats: audiobook, ebook, paperback Awards: SPSFC 3 Finalist

Thrill Switch is a gripping page-turner that kicks off with a brutal murder and rarely slows down. It also comes with a lengthy list of content warnings, but if blood and viscera doesn’t faze you, you’ll love this fast-paced cyberpunk thriller. 

Detective Ada Byron’s first murder shakes her world to the core. The victim’s demise mirrors the way her father was killed seven years earlier. Hardly possible- the notorious virtual world serial killer, Jazlin Switch, is behind bars with no computer access.

The investigation forces Ada and her partner to consult Jazlin and to navigate the treacherous waters of future Las Vegas politics. Casualties pile up as the conflict between anarcho-libertarians and power-hungry politics escalates. 

I prioritise character development over world-building, and I’m rarely impressed by the latter. Not a case here. Hawken captured a nuanced socio-political landscape of a world in which virtual serves as an escape from the harsh realities of overpopulation and limited career opportunities. The virtual reality allows people to experience full freedom without facing consequences for their actions. The thing is, the line between complete freedom and anarchy is thin and easily crossed. Also, when you get killed or raped in a digital world, it doesn’t happen to your physical body, but your mind experiences it fully. This raises the question: what defines “reality” in such circumstances?

The accessible writing and short chapters filled with action and tension make this book gripping. I found myself wanting to know what happens next. Before I realized it, the story concluded (loved the ending), leaving me craving more. 

The characterization impressed me. Ada is one heck of a protagonist. Smart, determined, and with a troubled past, just as I like it. She starts off as an eager newbie detective, but the events force her to grow fast and use all of her skills to survive and solve the case. 

And while I liked Ada, it’s Jazlin who steals the spotlight whenever she appears. The comparison to Silence of the Lambs holds true, particularly regarding Jazlin’s character.

Thrill Switch is a superbly written cyberpunk thriller that pulls no punches. It’s brutal, so be sure you’re in the right frame of mind. But if you’re game, buckle up and enjoy the thrill.

Audiobook narration: Molly Secours has done a stellar job here. I loved her narration.

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