Book Review: Hard Reboot, by Django Wexler
There are countless books about spaceships, or time machines, or dragons, or any other fantastical means of transportation. But there are a scarce few books (at least that I’m aware of) about giant robots. And even most of the ones I have stumbled across have been tie-ins to established media properties like Robotech, Gundam, Battletech, Transformers, et-al. Not much in the way of original stuff.
Which is why I pre-ordered Django Wexler’s Hard Reboot as soon as I heard about it.
An original novella, Hard Reboot centers on Zhi Zero, a scrappy mecha pilot, and Kas, the offworlder academic she cons into betting a ludicrous amount of money on a giant robot arena fight. When said bet (and the giant robot arena fight) goes bad, the two must work together to hatch a scheme in order to get out from under the thumb of the crime cartel that rules over the post-apocalyptic remains of old Earth. Oh, and Kas and Zhi fall in love along the way, so bonus. (That last part shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that a queer romance was central to the last Wexler novel I read). Though for the record I should probably note I read this book in May, not June, so no Pride points or whatever.
Wexler pulls off the lesbian romance pretty well (including a rather amusing excuse to stick both women into the cramped cockpit of a giant robot), as well as the big punchy robot fights. In addition to that, however, he also tosses in a bunch of other neat ideas, such as how the war-torn ruins of Earth are plagued by omnipresent malware that can overwhelm unprotected computers (such as Kas’ cybernetic implants) in a matter of seconds. Death by spam. Or, in more serious matters, Wexler also explores some themes of classism and privilege, giving the book a bit more depth than an out and out slugfest would offer.
Speaking of slugfests, though, I dare say that’s my biggest complaint. As I wanted more robot punching. Or really, just more book in general. There’s only two mecha battles in Hard Reboot— which, while that’s two more mecha battles in the oeuvre of most writers you can name, (shoulda thrown in some Gundams, Faulkner), I’m still terribly greedy and want more. There’s easily enough meat to Hard Reboot that Wexler could have expanded it into a novel. But, I suppose that’s just a quirk of the novella format, as they offer more depth than a punchy short-story without expanding to a full novel’s length. Still, while Hard Reboot’s ending wraps everything up pretty well, there’s still enough there that Wexler could revisit the characters and setting for more mecha mayhem.
And if we’re lucky, he will. I’m all for mecha fiction becoming the next ‘big’ thing.