With Frayed, Kerry Nietz returns triumphantly to the cyberpunk dystopia of The DarkTrench Saga, paralleling one of his prior tales a la Ender’s Shadow. The setting: a far-future caliphate of ubiquitous automation serviced by human robots whose electroshock brain-implants render them eunuchs with seats saved in paradise. The narrative remains accessible to newcomers while rerouting the circuitry of A Star Curiously Singing to highlight former bit players. Our hero is ThreadBare, a dissatisfied debugger living vicariously through others’ memories, unaware his station in life will soon be upended. But when misfortune deposits him in high places, he faces crises of conscience that compromise his faith and threaten to crash his whole world. Nietz’s barebones style is punchy yet subtle, laced with lived-in jargon. This slow-burning psychological drama holds rich rewards for those who unravel its thematic threads.
Best for: Teens and adults seeking intelligent social sci-fi that doesn’t feel compelled to set off an explosion every five minutes.
Discern: Some polygamous innuendo, pervasive in-world spiritual bleakness.