One of my biggest concerns as an author is eventually needing to move on to a new story with new characters, but ending up simply making it a recycled version of old material for fear of letting go.
G.S. Jennsen did no such thing with Exin Ex Machina, and it was encouraging to see.
This new Asterion Noir series is much more cyberpunk than what we've previously seen throughout the Aurora Rhapsody saga—in fact, there's very little space travel at all. But despite the difference in tone, I thought EEM still had a very familiar feel, and whether that's because I subconsciously knew it was taking place in the Aurora Rhapsody universe or because I've gotten to know G.S. Jennsen's method of storytelling so well, I'm not sure. Either way, readers old and new alike should feel perfectly at home here.
EEM introduces Nika and Dashiel as the two primary characters, though the focus is on Nika more often than not. I know I keep using the Aurora Rhapsody books as a comparison, but I think it's important to say that both of these characters have unique roles, personalities, and voices, completely different from a certain other pair of protagonists whom established readers have gotten to know. The skill with which that separation was created—and subsequently maintained—is impressive. And as usual, we are introduced to an entire cast of secondary characters who have unique voices and personalities of their own and will no doubt become even more interesting and likable as the series progresses.
In many ways, this book had kind of a "renegade" feel to it. Many of the characters are operating outside the law and are considered the bad guys by most of the people inhabiting their universe. This of course makes for lots of juicy intrigue, espionage, and action. There's combat, but it's got more of a rebellious-outlaw flare that I really enjoyed. There are investigations and inquests for information, but anything done by NOIR—the organization most of the main characters have formed—is kind of underhanded and on the sly. Then come to think of it, investigations conducted by actual law enforcement personnel have a little bit of a hard-boiled feel to them, which puts a whole new spin on the "noir" concept.
Some of my favorite parts of the book revolved around the technology in this world of Asterion Noir. I'll admit a lot of the scientific concepts in Aurora Rhapsody kind of flew over my head. The difference is that rather than follow the characters as they make new discoveries and learn new concepts like we did in AR, we just get thrown into this world of AN where all the tech already exists. It's no secret based on EEM's blurb that all the main Asterion characters are a half-organic, half-synthetic race, which of course opens the door for a lot of really intriguing personal augmentations. Other devices and tech available to them throughout their everyday lives are super awesome and I want ALL OF IT. Some of the ideas and concepts are really clever, and it's all very well done. (Side note: if you're a geek like me, you may get a kick out of the pet names given to a couple of those pieces of tech).
And what would a G.S. Jennsen series opener be without a devastating cliffhanger at the end?? Just kidding—it's actually not that devastating, simply because the book's actual final pages contain softer information that leaves us with more of a sense of focused anticipation. But then when I go back and think about how high the stakes now are for these new characters, I find myself very much looking forward to reading more.
Exin Ex Machina is now available in Kindle and paperback formats, with audio on the way. Check out G.S.'s other work, the Aurora Rhapsody series, available now in all three formats as well as trilogy collections.
About G.S. Jennsen
G. S. Jennsen lives in Colorado with her husband and two dogs. She has written ten novels, all published by her imprint, Hypernova Publishing. She has become an internationally bestselling author since her first novel, Starshine, was published in March 2014. She has chosen to continue writing under an independent publishing model to ensure the integrity of the Aurora Rhapsody series and her ability to execute on the vision she’s had for it since its genesis.
While she has been a lawyer, a software engineer and an editor, she’s found the life of a full-time author preferable by several orders of magnitude. When she isn’t writing, she’s gaming or working out or getting lost in the Colorado mountains that loom large outside the windows in her home. Or she’s dealing with a flooded basement, or standing in a line at Walmart reading the tabloid headlines and wondering who all of those people are. Or sitting on her back porch with a glass of wine, looking up at the stars, trying to figure out what could be up there.