(I’ve already written once about K.B. Spangler’s authorial efforts. Check out my review of “The Russians Came Knocking” to find out a bit more about this excellent writer and her universe.)
Maker Space picks up pretty quickly in the universe of ‘A Girl and Her Fed’ as well as Digital Divide. Digital Divide is the first of Spangler’s books in the series and takes care of the majority of world building necessary to understand the intricacies of her universe. Allow me to sum up:
Essentially the United States Government decided to input chips in to people’s heads that allowed them to interact with machines. ANY machine that uses electronic processing –from cell phones to power stations to laptops – can interact with this chip. It’s an amazing piece of technology and the Government wanted to use it as a sort of secret weapon. Instead the users who didn’t go insane banded together and outed the effort forming OACET – the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Enhancement Technologies – without asking permission. Things go steadily interesting from there.
Rachel Peng is one of these OACET agents and she seems to get stuck with all of the ‘fun’ jobs. This time she is investigating a bombing that occurred in our nation’s capitol – an investigation that seems to be pointing at our own military as being responsible. Throughout the book we follow Rachel’s investigation as well as her thoughts and interactions with the community. Spangler does an excellent job of conveying the different personalities and interactions that people have with their ‘new’ cyborg brethren.
The novel is an interesting one and Peng is an interesting protagonist. While Digital Divide offered an interesting premise, I would argue that many of the characters involved, including Peng herself, were a bit on the flat side and, occasionally, repetitive. This has been fixed tremendously in Maker Space. Now that Spangler has established the universe, she gets to play with the characters and their morals.
That play is where the majority of the novel takes place. Yes, it’s a procedural story, but the characters and their interactions are at the heart of it and those interactions are fascinating. You have Peng as our filter to see the world through and the irony of her being blind is not lost on the reader. We’re only seeing what she can see, and what she can see is, in many ways, more intimate than what a sighted person can – even though many organizations would not see it that way.
We also meet a number of her colleagues in the police department (she’s a liaison between OACET and the DC police) and Spangler does a good job of differentiating the different officers and agents that Peng interacts with. Of special interest is Peng’s partner in the police. He is one of the few people that Rachel has trusted with her secret of being blind and also one of the few that she listens to an has direct admiration for. He’s also a maker, a term I haven’t heard before but appears to be based on actual spaces spread around the country. That Spangler has found this community and woven it in to the story. It is done with a great deal of respect, but not fawning – a delicate balance for a creator to reach and make feel authentic. Spangler’s authenticity comes through quite well. It helps to have a charming person like Santino to experience the community with and through.
There are also a number of ‘extras’ that pop in and out throughout the investigation. It’s the usual group of suspects, informants, and plot developers and each is interesting in their own ways. They don’t get the full on development that Santino and Peng get, but they each have their motives and personalities. They aren’t supposed to be as well developed as Santino and Peng, but they can be just as entertaining and interesting as the pair.(A few of the ‘cameos’ from her webcomic are slighted slightly in development, but that makes sense – they are supposed to be cameos and their development is left to Spangler’s webcomic.)
On the whole, this is an excellent book and is a fascinating read for fans of ‘A Girl and Her Fed’ and an even more exciting read for those that are not. It stands excellently on its own and is a great investigation novel. I enjoyed it tremendously and look forward to the next installment.
Total rating: 4.85/5
Click HERE to buy Digital Divide (Book 1 of the Rachel Peng Novels)
Click HERE to buy Maker Space (Book 2 in the Rachel Peng Novels)
Click HERE to buy The Day the Russians Came Knocking (A Side Story to the Rachel Peng Novels)