Author: Aleksandr Voinov and Rachel Haimowitz
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Genre: Contemporary M/M/, Action/Adventure, cyberpunk
Length: Novella/100 PDF pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A fantastic cyberpunk adventure in an incredible world in what I hope will be a very long series.
Red Cell, Book 1
Ex-Green Beret Victor “Cyke” Kellermann is on the run for a crime he didn’t—well, okay, did commit, but he didn’t realize it at the time. He’s a good guy, a “white hat” hacker for hire. He’s also more teched out than the Bionic Man, though his ailing ’ware creates as many problems as it solves.
His latest series of break-ins are proving…difficult. Sentinel Tech’s security is cutting-edge, and the cops are hounding his ass. He sees only one reason why his employer hasn’t called off the dogs: someone inside is stealing data for real and setting him up to take the fall.
Paramedic-cum-tech-phreak Bear keeps scooping an increasingly battered Cyke off the sidewalk, and each time, his fascination for the fugitive and his mysterious ’ware grows. So does the attraction that makes him reluctant to turn Cyke in. Every time they touch, barriers fall. Before long, they’re both laid bare.
Cyke can handle losing blood, even losing consciousness. What he can’t afford is to lose his heart. Distractions like that get people killed—and if he succeeds in unlocking Sentinel Tech’s ugly secrets, he won’t be the only one in the line of fire.
Break and Enter is an action adventure with a number of layers and it’s the kind of exciting story that’s like watching a movie. The technical apparatus and level of sophistication is what set this unusual book apart from many others of this genre that I have read in the past, and if you like geeks and a lot of tech paraphernalia you will definitely enjoy Cyke’s and Bear’s story, which is also a love story.
When Paramedic Crew Chief Bear and his assistant Noah were summoned to the scene of an emergency they found what seemed to be a man who was part human, part machine, unconscious. He was eventually revived but refused to be transported to a hospital and Bear was so concerned about his ability to get home on his own that he helped him part of the way, to the closest safe house. Cyke’s body was so badly injured it took quite a while for the clot-bots that maintained his system to fix the damage.
A few days later there was a replay of the same situation when Bear and his team were called to another emergency, but this time Cyke was even more horribly injured – his body was almost fried. He either had a death wish or was not playing with a full deck. Bear was able to patch him up but barely, and it was clear that his injuries would require more than he was capable of fixing on his own. Every time they picked up Cyke it coincided with a break in at SenTech’s facilities – was it only a coincidence?
Shortly after, Cyke showed up at Bear’s apartment, this time barely alive and when Bear opened his door he collapsed unconscious. Bear kept Cyke there for about a week while he tried to repair the technology that kept him alive and it was during this time that they both started to develop warmer feelings for each other. Cyke had no option but to trust Bear because first of all he needed him to repair the systems that kept his body operating – he seemed to be a geek with enough knowledge to fix his aging body parts – and second, he was the only person he knew who had been kind to him. He had absolute trust in Bear which went against everything he had learned in his career as a Green Beret.
Cyke eventually told Bear why he was always injured and what he was doing at a secure site such as SenTech. Apparently he was working as a “white hat,” hired by an official of the company to check the effectiveness of their security systems, but more and more it appeared that he was being set up to take the fall for someone else. He had been doing his own investigation on the side to find out what the real game was and who were involved. Bear was very concerned that if he continued breaking and entering into SenTech’s facilities one day he wouldn’t be able to resuscitate Cyke because his body could take only so much before it broke and could not be fixed.
It was obvious from the very beginning who was behind the plot to infiltrate SenTech and set Cyke up but of course the story had to be played out to its logical conclusion.
One of the surprises was how vulnerable and human Cyke was, despite all the hyped up technical equipment that maintained his body which on the one hand was cutting edge, but now some three years after the Army had installed the software to enhance his body, it was very dated. His body parts disassembled probably could have fetched a lot of money on the black market yet he lived in a hole in the wall – a crate – and ate MREs and other food that was way past their expiry date.
Break and Enter is the first book in the Red Cell series so the rest of the story and motivations of some of the characters will be told in future episodes, but the first book is pretty exciting. The only downside was that I thought it was too short and the plot suffered a bit because of this. Also, at times the technology which was state of the art seemed to overwhelm the story.
Overall: The pacing was fast, the technology was incredibly complicated and I couldn’t stop reading this very complex story which fed the geek in me. The world building was top notch, the characters were well drawn and despite the genre, they were very human and quite likeable which made me care about them. I thought that Bear, while understated, was a match for Cyke and I can’t wait for the second book in this series to see how their relationship develops, because I think what I’ve seen so far of this intriguing world and the characters is just the beginning.
Be warned that parts of this book are extremely violent but it’s well worth it even for the squeamish.
This is a must read for those readers who love cyberpunk but for others as well who love a great story. Break and Enter is told from both Bear’s and Cyke’s third person POVs.