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.

hard reboot cover

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.

3 Comments

  1. Billy Sargent

    I would like to see your thoughts on Pacific Rim. I loved it personally, but I have to admit I almost got muscle strain from suspending my disbelief… too much knowledge and reality ruin escapism. O! The Physics! It’s enough to drive the drearily literal to drink!
    Thank you for making me aware of this book. I’ll have to give it a go.

    • Oh man. Pacific Rim? FREAKING GREAT. I actually saw a sneak preview of the first one way back when, ’cause I got free preview tickets from seeing ROBOT JOX at the Alamo Drafthouse.

      And, y’know, the Netflix anime is … not terrible?

      However, I have … opinions about Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like, it’s got SOME interesting ideas, but at the same time it kind of abandons most everything fun from the first movie. But then again it’s in that weird “Chinese funded big stupid action movie” genre, which … is another blog post entirely.

      • Billy Sargent

        😸👍 Indeed. The screen junkies honest trailer for Transformers Age of Extinction “Just like the movie itself, the last third of this Honest Trailer will pander to Chinese audiences to boost its international appeal.” comes to mind.
        I like the anime well enough. I’m definitely anticipating the second series release, and I think it’s superior to PU (pacific rim uprising). Robot Jox though! 😂🥴😹🤢 It really says something that they were heading out apology tickets before anybody even actually saw it! I remember watching that on VHS in the barracks… what a peculiar combination of disappointment/dissatisfaction for a 22 year old. I suppose one could be generous and say it was ahead of its time. Like the Edsel. (Which doesn’t prevent me from desiring white on red 1959 Corsair model- thanks, Matt Wagner!) I wonder if you have read Mage? One of the very nice things of this modern world, the accessibility of comics on my iPad. But I digress.

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