Hellequin, last of the HawkEye military elite, is desperate to escape the legacy of Soul Food, the miraculous plant food that leeched the soil, destroyed his family, and instigated a bloody civil war. For a man awaiting the inevitable madness brought on by his enforced biomorph implant, there’s only one choice. Run away with the circus…
Drifting above a poisoned landscape, Cyber Circus and her exotic acrobats and bioengineered freaks bring a welcome splash of colour into folk’s drab lives. None more so than escaped courtesan turned-dancer Desirous Nim. When Nim’s freedom and her very life are threatened, Hellequin is forced to fight again. But, even united, will the weird troupe and their strange skills be enough to save Nim and keep their home aloft? That’s assuming, of course, that Zan City’s Blood Worms, mute stowaways, or the swarms don’t manage to bring them down first…
Welcome to the greatest show on Sore Earth!
The book also features: “Black Sunday” – a free-standing but associated novelette.
A tale of desperation, incorporating drought, science, giant burrowing machines, rural magic, racial tension and sensuality in the 1930s Kansas dustbowl.
Cyber Circus is a little hard to invest in during the first few hectic pages, but, believe me, it is well worth the effort. You will sink into this weirdly-imagined steampunk world, of strange hybrid creatures and people who have been "upgraded". It is, at its core, both a love story and an examination of how the broken respond to life.
The characterisation is absolutely top-notch. Despite the strangeness of these people - from the lady-boy Lulu to the wolf girl Rust - you deeply care about their plight and how they are to survive.
The world-building is sparse, but details are dropped nicely into the story as required - dark cities, blood worms, dust storms, and locust swarms. This is a dangerous world, with dangerous men within in. I felt, as I was reading, as though this was some curious mix of Firefly (the barren outer planets) and Hellboy (the odd, but delightful characters). For me, this is a massive compliment, as I adored both.
Lakin-Smith's writing is deliciously punk, all spiky attitude, but there is a softness to it in key scenes that shows a sense of yearning towards love and hope. It is extremely well-written, drawing the reader in.
Cyber Circus and Black Sunday are both all too brief, but exquisite throughout. Definitely recommended.