Before I begin, I suggest the adults in the audience step out. Unless you are a massive fan of paranormal romance novels written by self-published authors with a teen audience in mind, this review will be of no interest to you. I’m talking Amanda Hocking and G. P. Ching here, not authors like J. K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, whose writing is so good that their stories also appeal to those of us old enough to have kids the age for which the book was written.
I assume the grownups have now left the room. Good. Then let me tell you about Synthetic: Rise of the Siren. It is written with an interesting twist on the typical “girl is in love with vampire and they join forces to fight the Big Bad(s)” story. This vampire was not sired but built to order, as were most of the characters in the story. The author, Shonna Wright, gets big points from me for originality, but loses some of them due to a lack of adequate world-building. The technical details are pretty sketchy throughout. Basically, at some future time, the technology exists to build intelligent synthetic creatures based on humans, mythical creatures, and animals. And it is big business.
The heroine, Kora, is quirky, brilliant, and a slave to the corporation that locks her up in a lab to create new synthetic creatures for their clients. Although she has no memory of her life before the lab, her servitude is the punishment for a crime she committed in her lost past.
When she is commissioned to make an immortal vampire body for Ruby, a wealthy client, Kora is bundled off to the mad-scientist lab under Ruby’s Frankenstein castle overlooking the sea.
Ruby is head of a big, massively dysfunctional synthetic family. She is also an elderly film star who is completely obsessed with vampires. Once Ruby is introduced, the story moves right along in a mashup of Steampunk, 60’s beach / B horror movies, snuff film fantasies, and tentacle manga. (Yick…tentacle manga!) Kora doesn’t want to help nasty old Ruby fulfill her lifelong dream of Technicolor vampire carnage, but what can a slave do to stop her?
Once Ruby’s dysfunctional family of synthetic slaves join the story, Kora starts to remember bits of her past and the brother she was responsible for killing. Her synthetic companions at the castle include an intelligent octopus, a probable troll, a sexy vampire, a walrus-man, a mini-Igor, and a group of beach-dwelling hippies refered to as “The Food”. As she and the synthetics work toward defeating the plans of their mistress, the story starts to head off into a jumble of plotlines that scream for a professional level of editing. The story is interesting, but it is too easy to get lost along the way.
The biggest complaint I had was that I never warmed to Kora. I wanted to, I tried to, but there was nothing about her that I could really identify with. Despite a large amount of personal history built up over the course of the novel, I never really got a feeling for who Kora was or why anyone might think she was special. She felt superficial to me throughout the book, and I ended up rooting more for the minor characters than I did for the heroine. I had a better sense of what they were about.
While I finished this book and think that the same teens who enjoy Amanda Hocking and G P Ching will like it, I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to continue with the series. The comparison with those authors may be unfair, because Synthetic: The Rise of The Siren is a more complex story than the other authors typically produce. Despite this, the books read the same — written for teens but emotionally simplistic to the point that I would think they were written for much younger children if they didn’t include sexual elements. Once again, this is an interesting concept screaming for a professional level of editing to really bring out the story and characterizations and get the emotional levels right for the sophisticated teen audience I believe the author targets.
Fortunately, although there will be additional books in the series, the ending of the book wraps things up nicely and you do not need to continue reading the series to get to a satisfying conclusion. Kudos to author Shonna Wright for this! I hate reading an entire book only to discover that there is no real ending to the tale.
The book contained a small number of sentences with words that had been left out, and only one spelling error jumped out at me (“too” instead of “to”). If you are a reader who can tolerate a small number of editing errors, you should be good with the level here. I tend to be picky, but the book was acceptable to me in the grammar and spelling area.
Do I recommend the book? At a price of $2.99, I will say yes – for a very specific readership. If you enjoy the better written, cheap, paranormal romance novels of the type that Amanda Hocking and G P Ching write for a teenage audience, you will probably enjoy this book. I have read several of Ms. Hocking’s pre-big-money novels, and she can definitely tell a story even though I generally did not enjoy the overall experience due to the lack of editing. I am still trying to slog through G P Ching’s “Soulkeeper”. I find it dull beyond words. Synthetic: Rise of the Siren is the superior book.