If there is one thing that every cyberpunk—and indeed, speculative fiction—story should do, it is to put a mirror against our society, look at its ills, and reflect them back to the reader. It should serve as a warning about humanity’s current course, presenting the ills that this could potentially lead to. If there is something else that every cyberpunk story should do, it is to tell a rollicking adventure. Author Anna Mocikat understands these needs, and with Behind Blue Eyes, she delivers on both with aplomb.
Behind Blue Eyes tells the story of cyborg Nephilim, a warrior for the Guardian Angels of Olympias, a military outfit charged with protecting the Olympias Conglomerate against those who will do it harm, including rival corporations. As she faces the prospect of a promotion to Archangel, she becomes confused by doubts surfacing in her head that maybe the cause she was indoctrinated to fight for isn’t as just as she once believed. As these doubts continue to take hold, Nephilim digs deeper, setting her on a collision course with the Angels’ leader, High Archangel Metatron.
At 479 pages in paperback (or 531 pages in hardcover or an estimated 533 swipes on Kindle), Behind Blue Eyes is a substantial read. Mocikat uses this space to tell a story with an in-depth plot with plenty of twists and turns that unfolds at a steady pace, yet always building momentum as it moves forward. This allows the story to unfold at a natural pace while giving it room to breathe as it builds its world, delves into its characters (particularly Nephilim, who is the point of view character throughout) and explore its themes of corporate power, what it means to be human, and breaking one’s programming.
While not mentioned on the book’s cover, I should flag that Behind Blue Eyes is the first book in a series, with the second and third volumes, Fallen Angels and War Games, out now. While it isn’t spoiling anything to say that by the time the book ends, there is more story to be told (it even advertises Fallen Angels after the story’s conclusion), its ending may tease more stories to come, but it feels like a complete—and satisfying—story.
The prose is written in an easily digestible manner that results in the book being a quicker read than its page count would suggest. Throughout, it navigates the reader through the story, explaining everything the reader needs to know without pandering to them. The world is realised in vivid detail, as are the characters, painting a vivid picture for the reader’s mind’s eye. The slower-paced parts of the book never drag and keep the reader engaged throughout, and the book’s many action sequences are visceral, putting the reader right in the middle of it. No matter the type of scene, whether it’s characters talking, an action sequence or a sex scene, the author has struck a wonderful balance between detail and pacing, ensuring that is flows well, keeps moving forward, and most importantly, entertains.
As the protagonist and point of view character, Nephilim is the most clearly realised character. This is fitting, as despite the scope of the story, Behind Blue Eyes is firmly her journey. Through her eyes, we see this dystopian world and how it operates, and everything that is wrong with it. The title Behind Blue Eyes (which also serves as one of the chapter titles) is beautifully fitting as, at its heart, it is about the person beyond her glowing blue eyes (a trait shared by all the book’s cybernetic Angels). Her journey from simple warrior to somebody wanting to fight for a better future, from someone cut off from humanity to learning what love is, is at the book’s core. For its dystopian look at the future to the action and adventure, Behind Blue Eyes is full of heart, with it all coming from this protagonist.
While Nephilim may be the most clearly defined character, Behind Blue Eyes is also packed with great supporting characters, from her best friend and partner, Adriel, to her leader, Metatron (I’ll just point out that all the Guardian Angels are named after angels from Christianity, with the book providing thematic explanations for some of these), to IT nerd/surprise ally Fenwick, to Nephilim’s romantic interest, Jake, and everyone in between. Whether they be friend or foe, each of these characters is memorable, both filling the role required by the story and enriching the world.
All the characters’ voices are unique and distinctive. Mocikat’s dialogue plays to this, ensuring the characters sound like individual people. The dialogue all feels natural, whether the character is a cyborg cut off from humanity, or whether the character is fully human with a firm grip of their own humanity.
If you’re a fan of cyberpunk stories, you will find so much to love in Behind Blue Eyes. The author has painted a fully realised world with some great action and a gripping plot with plenty of twists and turns. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, this is a great place to start, thanks to a wonderful, personal story about Nephilim and a great adventure.
For a second, the room was completely silent as all kids stared at her in shock. The ones who had stood closest to the two women were covered in blood and brain tissue. Suddenly Nephilim was confronted with more than two dozen pairs of terrified children’s eyes, who saw her for what she was: a cold-blooded killer. The monster from their dark closets brought to life. And it had neon-blue eyes.Behind Blue Eyes, Chapter One: “God’s Busy”
Behind Blue Eyes was purchased for the purpose of an honest review.
Behind Blue Eyes is available in paperback and on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon).
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Why not get it from Amazon, via the handy link below? Please note, not only will you be supporting the author, you may also be supporting me by way of a small commission from any items purchased (and no, it won’t cost you anything extra!).Behind Blue Eyes: An Epic Sci-Fi Action-Adventure (Behind Blue Eyes Book 1)