Word Count: 80K
Words per penny: 201
Ted Lomax is a down-on-his-luck private investigator eking out a living in the independent, corporate-run state of California. He lost his eye -- and gained a daughter -- in the Battle of Las Vegas during the war. His disability keeps him from using "iyz," the ubiquitous wearable Internet interfaces that keep everyone else connected.
Lomax has turned his disability into a competitive advantage. He conducts his investigations off-the-grid, away from the prying eyes of CalCorp and their Secret Police. He also relies on connections to the Internet underworld, including a disabled uberhacker named Philly, who spends her days in a combination wheelchair/spider-exoskeleton.
When his daughter Amy is arrested by the Secret Police for the murder of her boyfriend, Lomax will do anything to clear her name. This pits him against Amy's father-in-law, the head of the Secret Police and her dead boyfriend's mentor. His leads take him to the "mix clubs" where young people go to get their synesthesia highs, then out into the tattered fringes of California in a search for a piece of stolen tech.
Even though I'm not a fan of the mystery/detective genre, Strictly Analog really worked for me. The gritty, corporate dystopia had a bit of a Snowcrash feel to it, and the world is painted in stark, black strokes. From the Midwest dotted with slave labor factories that build goods for a wealthy China, to decaying libraries that double as homeless shelters, this is a scary, dangerous world. California is an isle of relative stability and prosperity; exile to Arizona is their version of capital punishment, and it seems that true execution would be more humane.
The world and the technology perhaps overshadows the story. At least I found the story taking a backseat to my curiosity about Levesque's post-secession Golden State. But if you're looking for a hard-boiled detective story, don't worry: Lomax gets chased, shot, pistol-whipped, and threatened the way any good detective ought to, and there is plenty of mistrust and misdirection. That's all par for the course, if I understand the detective genre.
Strictly Analog is a fun, fast-paced adventure. The writing is strong, and Lomax's narration is suitably jaded and exhausted. There were a handful of typos (I'm sending some corrections the author's way), but they're rare. The author is an English professor, after all. By the way, Levesque is on the webbynets at http://richardlevesqueauthor.wordpress.com/.
I keep saying that there are a lot of great, worthwhile self-published books out there. I'm throwing this sucker in the evidence bag.