Shadowrun 22: Dead Air
Jak Koke

Cover Shadowrun is an RPG that, like many, has spawned a book line. It's been a while since I've read one and the first thing to stike me about this book is how unbelievably badly written it is. I'll still read more, because writing quality varies from author to author and I like the way the Shadowrun universe blends high fantasy and cyberpunk. It's good fun.

Anyway onto the book. It starts with a frame story that is utterly irrelevant, severely pretentious and completely flawed. If you read this book skip the prologue and the epilogue, you'll enjoy the book much more.

Once the author has finished with his pretentious wank the book finally begins. The main character is a combat biker elf called Jonathon Winger. Combat biking is a sport created as the next stage up from the classic SF movie 'Roller Ball'. Personally I think it's a silly concept, but then I think kicking a dead pig around a flat bit of grass is a silly concept too.

One of his teammates gets into a whole heap of trouble by prying into things she shouldn't have. This gets her killed right at the start of the book and Johnny spends the rest of the book running around trying to find out why she was killed and by whom. While he's doing this a lot of his friends get shot, but not killed and a lot of the bad guys get shot and killed. But that's okay as there are more bad guys then good guys, so they're expendable.

By now you're probably wondering why I'm taking such a patronising tone to this book. Well, to be brutally frank, the main character is a complete prat. In every combat scene I was hoping someone would put a bullet through the moron's brain, but he always survived. Which when you think about it is ludicrous. He's the equivalent of a football star and succeeds in killing professional assassins? Hello. I don't think so.

The only bad guy left alive at the end of the book is the assassin Hendrix. I was pleased about this as he was the best character in the book. If he'd been allowed to complete is contract and off Johnny I'd have enjoyed the ending.

So does this book have any redeeming features? It's got lots of well described combat scenes involving both magic and cyberware, which is half the reason I read the books. It could have done with a better conceived plot and characters that didn't make you barrack for the bad guys. Still, it's effective brain-mush that's mildly entertaining for a few hours.