Book Review: Dustwalker

I paid cash money for this book, so this wasn’t one of those free ARC situations. However, I am acquainted with 1/2 of the authors and converse with her via FB chat almost daily.

Neither of the above facts are going to color my review.

THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD.

There. That’s all you need to know. But, if you must have more, keep scrolling.

The Cover

 

The Blurb

A SYNTH SEARCHING FOR PURPOSE…

Walk. Scavenge. Destroy. Trade. A simple cycle that’s suited Ronin for one hundred and eighty-five years. With no clear grasp of his programming, the barren wasteland known as The Dust offers him purpose, a place where his armored undercasing, amped-up processors, and advanced optics can be put to use. The ramshackle towns on the edges of the waste serve merely as resupply stations between increasingly long treks. But one night — one human woman — makes him question everything.

A WOMAN WHO BRINGS HIM TO LIFE…

Lara Brooks struggles to survive under the strict rules imposed by the bots in Cheyenne. With her sister missing, she’s been on her own for weeks, and fears the worst. Her only hope comes from Ronin, a bot she catches spying on her. He promises to provide for Lara and search for her sister. All she has to do is dance. It should be easy; she’s done it before. But the longer she spends with Ronin, the harder it is to see him as just another bot.

A SANCTUARY HIDING DARK SECRETS…

In a city where humans are relegated to live in squalor, Ronin discovers a threat greater than any in the Dust — Warlord, Cheyenne’s tyrannical leader. When Ronin ignores the rules, he unwittingly puts Lara in danger. Warlord is as intolerant of disrespect as he is of mankind.

The Review

I’ll be honest. I might not have picked up this book if it wasn’t by someone I know. More honesty: my life is better because I did. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi romance, but I’m going to be rectifying that IMMEDIATELY.

I was hooked almost immediately. I love me a Romeo and Juliet story (although I prefer they not end with miscommunication and teenage suicide) (this one did not end with teen suicide due to miscommunication), I love rebellions, and I love the whole premise of the post-nuclear apocalypse with no real recollection as to exactly what happened, but a separation between the ‘bots and humans.

It’s a brutal world, and Tiffany Roberts does an amazing job describing that brutality in a way that really grabs at you and doesn’t let go. The world-building is fantastic and completely believable.

I imagine it’s difficult to write a robot (synth – a ‘bot that was programmed to adapt and change like a human) while maintaining their decided non-human characteristics. This book doesn’t have any trouble doing that. Ronin’s thought processes clearly keep him on the bot side of the spectrum, even when he’s becoming more “human” with his emotional reactions. I especially love the precision in which he measures time.

Lara is angry. Very angry. But this makes sense. She’s had a hard life. Human are subsistence farmers. Scrap gatherers. Subject to the bot Warlord who runs everything with cruelty. She’s had a brutal time of it, and most of that can be traced back to the bots of Cheyenne. The fact that she’s able to move past her anger enough to even consider softening to Ronin is amazing.

My only bone of contention with this story is the rape. It’s a flashback rape, but a rape nonetheless (and you all know how I feel about rape scenes – so many better ways, in my opinion, to torture someone and give them PTSD). But, in this case, I’m not going to deduct stars for it. Although I’m knee-jerk sensitive about rape being used as a method of torment, specifically for women, this violation added to the story and the protagonist’s character in a such a way that it’s hard to imagine it not having happened. (I’m still going to call out ever rape in every book I read, but I’ll always admit when I think they’re defensible.)

The Quotes

“I think, I reason, I react to the world around me. I question what I know and see, and I wonder what the future might bring, though I know it won’t likely be different than the past. I hope!”
– Ronin

Many humans viewed robots as tools, more akin to the handheld electronic devices they were so infatuated with than to themselves. Many others, like William, recognized our emergent consciousness, intelligence, and personality, and saw something inherently human in mind, if not in body.

[Lara:] “Smart ass.”
[Ronin:] “My ass is, at best, of average intelligence.”

 

The Verdict – 4.5 stars

This book was smart, funny, emotionally challenging, and all-around fantastic. I laughed out loud at parts (see above quote about the smart ass) and cried out loud (on the bus, damn you Tiffany!). This makes me eager to dive into everything else they’ve written. So do yourself a favor and buy it!

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