Book Review: Deadeye by William C. Dietz
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of The Mutant Files
Publisher: Ace (January 27, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
William C. Dietz brings us an interesting new sci-fi police procedural series set in a plague-ravaged future. Those who survived the bioengineered threat of 2038 were either left completely unaffected or developed a wide range of disfiguring mutations, leaving a great divide – both socially and geographically – between the world’s “norms” and “mutants”. Relations between the two groups aren’t great, to say the least. Anti-mutant organizations sow hatred and incite brutal attacks and killings against mutants, making no small amount of work for Los Angeles detective Cassandra Lee who has built her reputation around taking down some of the city’s worst criminals.
When the daughter of Bishop Screed, leader of the Church of Human Purity, is kidnapped, all signs point to the work of mutants. Assigned to the case is Lee and her new mutant partner Deputy Ras Omo, who must race against time to save the young woman before she is sold and used for breeding by the ruthless human smuggling rings in the Red Zone. And if only that were the end of it. While chasing down leads, the two cops are also hounded every step of the way by Bonebreaker, the serial killer believed to have taken the lives of more than half a dozen police officers, including detective Frank Lee, Cassandra’s own father.
For a first book of a new series, Dietz has established quite a solid foundation for the world of Mutant Files, especially when it comes the social climate with regards to norms and mutants. Stigma is strong against the latter group, a lot of whom live in lawless and run-down “freak towns” where no norms fear to tread. To avoid catching the incurable disease, norms also wear masks and nose filters in the presence of mutants, and while most mutants wear masks too, they do so more to hide their terrible mutations. While world-building elements such as these are compelling, unfortunately they also come to the reader in a series of heavy info-dumps near the beginning of the novel, weighing down the introduction and making the first couple of chapters a slow read.
There’s quite a good story in here too, which, if not immediately apparent, does admittedly take a bit of effort to uncover. The major obstacle was once again the introduction, where I had a very difficult time adjusting to the writing.
Firstly, Dietz seems to have a fondness for frequent point-of-view switches, and not just between major characters. Every so often, minor characters and even random bystanders seem to feel the need to chime in for a paragraph or two, presumably so the reader can get a better feel of a situation by seeing it through their eyes. While I understood the intention, I didn’t think this was very effective and could have done with less of these seemingly arbitrary asides. And because they were often so short, rather than contribute to a scene I found them to be more distracting than anything.
Secondly, the author has a peculiar tendency to insert in-line explanations between parentheses in cases, say, where an acronym is being used or when a character says something in another language etc., and Dietz will place the translation right there in the middle of the prose and even dialogue. Not a big deal to some readers, perhaps, but for me it had a light immersion breaking effect. It would have been preferable if these explanations were naturally worked into the narrative, rather than placed glaringly between a pair of brackets. But then again, it’s also possible this may be changed in the finished book.
Without a doubt though, sandwiched between the beginning and end of the book is where all the good stuff is. The plot is entertaining and fast-paced, and kept me turning the pages once it got going. I did stumble again at the end when things wrapped up a bit too quickly and in much chaos, especially where the Bonebreaker aspect of the story was concerned, but generally I was quite pleased with the overall pacing as well as the characterization of Cassandra Lee, a badass female cop who is great at what she does. There’s always room for improvement when it comes to character development, but nonetheless I found myself greatly invested in Lee and Omo’s relationship.
I would rate this book between a 3 and 3.5 out of 5 stars if I could, with emphasis on the fact I really enjoyed the story but only after a fierce struggle with the writing. To be fair, most of my quibbles have to do with certain quirks of the author’s style, which may not matter as much to another reader. I’d definitely be open to reading the sequel, especially since there are still questions about the Bonebreaker that require addressing, and I’d be curious where those answers will take our protagonist.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Ace Books!