Its not a secret I have read, enjoyed and recc'ed the Andrews Duo's books countless times. So its not hard to imagine my happy delight when I got a chance to read their newest novella "Silver Shark" ahead of time. This is set in the same universe as their futuristic romance "Silent Blade" published by Samhain a couple years back. The two stories can be read independent of each other, though "Silent Blade" is set in New Delphi and it wouldn't hurt to have read it since it explores a different track in the world ("Silent Blade" was all assassins and kinsmen battles, "Silver Shark" is more about the trained psychers). Also "Silver Shark" has a field day with science fiction-y stuff.
In a word: riveting. The world that Andrews built in "Silent Blade" is let loose and has a freedom to play. The novella begins at Uley, a world torn between two fractions building their military might to wage a three centuries and plus war against each other for planet and cause no longer viable. The story then moves to Rada, which is where "Silent Blade" takes place, and the stark differences between the two worlds is more than a little problematic for Claire who was raised to believe that attention to oneself is the worst possible situation.
The situation, at least as its presented to Claire upon arrival on Rada as a refugee, isn't strictly fair and it was a little convenient that her first job interview went so smoothly. This was more or less my one complaint with Claire--not that she's too good or too powerful, but that happenstance favors her a lot. Within her first day on Rada she lands herself an enviable job, with a boss she's attracted to (on multiple levels) in a job that comes easy to her with a firm that specializes in what she was trained to do for years. When a personal debt threatens the life she was building, that doesn't so much faze her as give her some hiccups and momentary panics.
This deeper look into the world of the psychers, as the psychic-powered bionet users are known as, was mesmerizing. I said in the "Silver Blade" review that the kinsmen set-up is nothing so much as Mafialand--I stand by that. The bionet evolves and changes for each user in response to their own perceptions--for one it might be a jungle filled with jungle animals and dangers, for another its an ocean with sharks and coral reefs. Claire's Bionet 101 about halfway through was more telling then showing, but within the confines of the mission it made sense.
"Silver Shark" focuses less on the romance angle (much of it reserved for the latter third) and more on the world/characters. We learn more about the kinsmen and their oddly archaic system of dealing with things (duels!), but also how it affects the civilians. The matter of fact way the Immigration Officer let Claire know that savage fights in the streets are pretty standard between kinsmen and she should basically just hide in a corner until its over with had me smiling a bit.
A regret I have though is I wish there had been more time for Venturo and Claire to play around in the bionet together. A confrontation that must have been pretty spectacular is briefly mentioned at the very end and I have to admit it was fun reading about how Claire outwitted folks. If anyone deserved to be able to swagger about because she's that good its Claire. A little too good at points; she makes a big deal about the different tests they use to find Psychers, but she manages to pass them all, rather easily. Its excused as part of her training--from a very young age she was taught discipline and control, but it couldn't have been mentally or physically healthy for her to constantly keep such tight shielding or to crack it occasionally.
The Andrews have made science fiction accessible to those who are wary of the science-babble, even with "Silver Shark" (which is more scifi focused then "Silent Blade") there wasn't a time when I had to step back and try to figure out what they were trying to explain with all the jargon. I'm crossing my virtual fingers that there will be more tales in the Kinsmen universe.