Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Vincent wants revenge. As an alpha in an alternate United States, far in the future, he’s in an unusual position in society. He is one of the early and high functioning synthetic individuals, an AI made of organic parts so cunningly put together he can pass as human. His people, lesser synths, are treated as property, branded so society knows who is human and who isn’t. Synths are toys to be played with, pets to be used as their owners wish, bought and sold, broken and killed on a whim. Legislation is going before Congress that will further affect his people’s future, spearheaded by Linder, a politician with aims on the White House. Vincent has to stop him, to destroy him, but the man seems to be untouchable.

Until, that is, Vincent stumbles across a possible backdoor. Yugo, the son of Linder’s old friend might know something Vincent can use. The two seem to no longer be quite as close as they were. So Vincent has to lure Yugo out into the public eye, somewhere where Vincent can get close to him. But how close is close enough, especially when Yugo has a bias against synths?

The slavery allegory and overall message of Synthetic Code for Sincerity feels heavy handed and sometimes clumsy. AIs are treated as property, while looking and acting just like humans, even so far as to be manufactured out of organic material, which makes me wonder how non-human they really are. Which is one of Vincent’s arguments — about how synths scream and bleed while being raped and tortured, just like humans — so how can they not be counted as deserving rights. Ironically, this is followed with the synthetic Vincent going on and on about how much better real meat from a once-living cow tastes than artificial meat. The messaging feels all over the place.

Then there’s the idea of miden versus synth, which at times seems to be a stand in for cis and trans. The idea of synths being able to pass as midens (ie, regular humans), which requires them to be branded so that the common miden won’t get confused, just added to the kitchen sink feeling of this book. Synthetic Code makes a lot of pointed comments all in one book, but I was left with an overall feeling of disinterest, as the inability to anchor on one main plot point made it hard to keep track of which of the many threads winding about the characters I was supposed to be interested in. Was it the inhuman versus inhuman? The synth/miden argument? The keep the monster out of the White House plot? The mystery about what really happened to Yugo? None of them were well put together or handled effectively.

Yugo has been sheltered, and so his abrupt turn from synths are evil and wrong and horrible to caring when one is televised hurting herself in a sadistic game of Simon Says feels somewhat understandable, but I would have liked a little more of a glimpse into the emotions he was feeling and how that change came to be, rather than the simple about face. This feels like  an absolute 180 and, where he was uncomfortable and afraid of Vincent’s siblings, he’s now teaching them art and laughing with them as if there’s no more bigotry or fear in his heart.

Spoiler title
Events later come out about the first synth Yugo knew and cared for and how he saw that person as more of a parent figure than his own parents, but then, if that’s the case, why did he hate synths in the first place? Why go on about how much he hates them for passing as humans?
It felt like he was made to hate synths purely to force both a conflict with Vincent and to serve as an example of how bigotry is wrong, and can be overcome if the bigot just meets the right, perfect representative of their hated group. It really didn’t work for me and it felt like character assassination of Yugo.

Vincent is supposed to be smart. Clever, at the very least, and he has his plan to force Yugo out of hiding and into somewhere where Vincent can get his claws into him: He sets the man’s house on fire, destroying everything. Then, in the new apartment with him, trying to figure out how to best get close to Yugo, he skips over the blatant, obvious method, which is seduction. Instead, given the first chance, he shrieks at him like a harridan and it felt like it would have destroyed any chance at getting anything close to trust and friendship out of Yugo if the author hadn’t forced the plot to make it work.

The slow burn romance, on the other hand, did feel well established. Yugo, with his emotional isolation, his obvious physical attraction, and the forced proximity with Vincent that had him interacting with him almost every day slowly turning into a friendship and then more? Very well done. Vincent, laser focused on his goal — that goal being to get to Linder through Yugo — which required him to obsess about Yugo, learning to appreciate and have feelings for the other man? It worked perfectly for me.

However, even with that, this book felt like a chaotic mess. There are too many ideas, with all of them put onto the same plot point or the same person, who then had to shrug one role off to shrug into another. It felt frenetic and, all in all, left me cold and uninterested. The end of the plot, when all the pieces fall into place, felt like it came out of nowhere. Just a blithe and abrupt and then this happened. Which, considering the plot of Victor’s revenge had been sidelined by so much nothing and nonsense, went over like a lead brick, for me.

There is a plot in this story, buried under a lot of distraction. There are ideas in this story, but too many of them are tossed out at once and all are unfocused in purpose or point. I’m sorry, but I’d pass on this book. While parts of the relationship work, there are also parts that feel forced. The pacing is too slow, until the end when the solution to all the problems just shows up and then takes place off screen. However, the writing is decent enough that I’d be curious to see more of this author’s work when they have some more books under their belt.