Book Review: The Hive Construct

The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill

Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology – from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind's medical problems.

But it is also a divided city, dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties.

And when a devastating new computer virus begins to spread through the poorest districts, shutting down the life-giving implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle.

Hiding amidst the chaos is Zala Ulora. A gifted hacker and fugitive from justice, she believes she might be able to earn her life back by tracing the virus to its source and destroying it before it destroys the city. Or before the city destroys itself . . .

Who doesn't like a good near future, dystopian, computer tech focused kind of story? These kind of themes plays into a lot of interests of mine so when I was notified about the release of The Hive Construct earlier this year I got very excited. Furthermore the mentioning of bio augmentations really made me even more excited for the story. A year ago I finished the computer game Deus Ex Human Revolution and this made me look differently towards augs and some of the ethnic parts involved so all in all I had high hopes for this story. The Hive Construct is written by Alexander Maskill, who wrote this story just when he was 17, just as with the books of Henry Venmore-Rowland Transworld has struck a amazing deal. Alexander Maskill also won the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award. Just a small note upfront, Alexander Maskill does live up to them! 

The Hive Construct picks up readily inspiring a very dire setting the world as we no it, is extinct. There is a huge teeming city underneath the Saraha Desert, called New Cairo, where people now live. Even though this is a place of refuge the living is hard and resources such as food are scare. I was impressed with the whole dystopian setting that Alexander Maskill was able to inspire in just a few pages, like the dangers of the world. What makes the feeling of the world of The Hive Construct even more dire is the division of the poor and the rich. New Cairo is in the hands of a few rich cooperations that are able to do things for themselves, for their own gain.  
The story of The Hive Construct picks up with three different storylines. The first is of the hacker Zala Ulora, a girl with a dark past. Zala has had many run ins with justice in the past and her return to New Cairo is with a specific goal in mind. She wants to clear her name and get her old life back and one thing that can help her do this is by finding out the roots of the virus known as Soucouyant, that is currently plaguing the people of New Cairo. But there is a twist given to who can catch Soucouyant. It infects peoples bioaugmentations, and given a world where people rely heavily on such things... well... you can safely assume that people fear it. In her quest of finding the origins of the virus Zala has to go trough a lot, she is a skilled hacker, granted, one of the best, but this is a quest that cannot be completed by merely a computer and a keyboard. When she goes on investigating, she faces some very strong opponents and finds herself in some impossible situations, luckily she has her wits about her that help her out. 

The second storyline that you follow is that of Ryan Granier, a Councillor of New Cairo. The city of New Cairo is in quarantine and he is starting to play a game, a game that tries to win support on one hand but with some other motives that the people are led to believe. Ryan is leading strong force against the quarantine of New Cairo but he actually wants to only get higher up in the city's council. Well I am not saying you get what you deserve but some things happen to Ryan that where you can say: karma. When I learned more details I actually started to feel for the guy. But then again, karma... 

The third storyline is that of Alice, a recently widowed mother who wants nothing more for her children to escape New Cairo. Her husband though was part of a revolutionary group and this past is haunting her and her children and they get caught up in a deadly game and getting out is not an option. I do have to be honest and say that I didn't quite enjoy this storyline compared to the other two, it wasn't necesarily misplaced, the emotional current did fit very strongly in the whole idea of the story but I just missed the connection with the characters. 

The three storyline begin slowly, which allow Alexander Maskill to put the setting right, gradually Alexander Maskill picks up the pace in the three storylines, I really liked the picking up of the speed as this produced just the right thing for a thriller, some very important plot twists were revealed that make you wonder just what will happen next, being wrong and again being suprised by what Alexander Maskill has in store for you. Even better yet is that he converges the storyline into a one story in the end seeing a bit of the interconnection between the character, creating a well rounded story.

I already mentioned above that the setting of The Hive Construct is nailed spot-on, I forgot to mention however that this is far from a humurous and funny book, the works of Terry Pratchett often feature on the comical side but The Hive Construct is a thriller sort of story with very bleak surrounding. 

When it comes to world building and the surroundings of the story, the whole city of New Cairo was very craftely made and executed into fine details but when I looked at the bigger picture the story could have taken place in any different continent and I didn't get the Egytian influences for the full 100%, yes it still inspires an arabic sort of feeling but if The Netherlands would have been turned into a desert wasteland it could have been just the location as well. But you know the story does take place mostly in New Cairo so that is what matters and that is what Alexander Maskill show very well.

Now what thing that surprised me was the focus of the story. The Hive Construct is an action story but it doesn't necessarily put the emphasis on the action alone. There are still plenty of action scenes, especially in the end of the book, wow (btw), but instead of the action Alexander Maskill explores more of a humane side of it, both emotional and economical, which really changes your prespective on the story, at least for me it did. It's with these kind of changes on where to put the focus one, that make such a story readily enjoyable and one-of-a-kind. 

The Hive Construct is a definite recommendation. I enjoyed reading the book a lot, perhaps because I am a bit of a nerd that I like the emphasis of the themes suchs as bioaugmentations, hacking and a virus that attackes these bioaugmentations, but if you are looking for your next thriller, The Hive Construct is also more than suited for you. Furthermore is has a connectable protagonist and the secondary characters of the book all help to inspire a complete, whole, feeling to the story. The Hive Construct can be considered as a stand alone book, I don´t think a sequel is opted for it and the story does end with one big bang, butI do think there is plenty of room for a possible sequel. Also I do have to say that is Alexander Maskill was able to write this at 17, watch out for him, I am eager to see what other creative stories he will be able to come up with. Recommended!


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