Book Review: Exin Ex Machina by G. S. Jennsen
After reading G. S. Jennsen's epic 9-book space opera saga Aurora Rising, I was both very excited and a little nervous about what would come next. Jennsen is obviously a talented story-teller and has a gift for stringing words together in a way that puts you right in the story, but it's always a little strange when an author you've come to know and love for writing a particular set of characters in a particular universe moves on to doing something else. Exciting, but strange. I found myself wondering whether I would like the new characters, whether the story would fly over my head (I admit to not being the most scientifically-minded sci-fi reader), whether the plot would hold my interest, and so on. I shouldn't have worried. If anything,Exin Ex Machina proves that Asterion Noir promises to be a series just as captivating as its predecessor, if not more so.
I loved the cyberpunk setting of the story, and Jennsen does a great job of exploring all the important societal impacts the advanced technology of her setting has on its inhabitants. This ties directly into the conflict in exciting ways, and it gives the story a dark, gritty feel that makes the more light-hearted moments shine even brighter. That balance is important, I think. This is a story with some pretty bleak, overarching conflicts and some even bleaker personal ones for the story's characters. But there's a good sense of humor in some places that balances it out and reminds us what these characters are fighting for. There's also a strong mystery element to the story as little pieces and hints are laid out. We don't get all the answers by the end, but it was that distinct sense of just wanting to figure out what was going on that drove much of the story's conflict and really sucked me into the story.
As far as characters go, I seriously could not have asked for better characters. Sometimes in a series, I feel like it takes me a while to start to really get attached to the characters, but that wasn't the case here at all. I loved Nika, Dashiel, and many of the secondary characters almost from the moment they were introduced, and upon reaching the end of the story, all I wanted was to continue this journey with them. Jennsen does an excellent job of putting the reader right inside the character's head and really feeling what they're feeling and experiencing, whether that character is protagonist Nika or one of the minor characters. I have a giant soft spot in my heart for characters who are damaged, as I'm sure many readers do, and these are some seriously damaged characters. Despite all of that, they keep fighting, keep going, even when all the odds are stacked against them, and you can't help rooting for characters like that. I can't wait to see where their separate paths will lead them all next. I'm sure it's going to be quite the adventure.
Exin Ex Machina is available on Amazon.