Wire Wings by Wren Handman is a forthcoming sci-fi novel dealing with love, loss, and VR. Where does VR fit in all this? Let’s find out!
I got an eArc of Wire Wings through Netgalley, and I’m thankful to the author and publisher for the opportunity. The book is expected to be published on June 23rd, keep an eye out! That being said, I’ll keep as objective as possible in my review. If you want to learn more about the author, let me refer you to her Goodreads page.
Wire Wings: The Plot
I’ve read several Virtual Reality fiction books and they are all rooted in the ability to relive the world of the game. Here, we don’t have a game, but a VR world of its own. Developed by the father of our protagonist (Graciela), that’s the most widely spread and used technology in the world.
Everyone can gain access to the VR environment – the so-called Waves, as long as they have a Line. Each user has their Homepage, and you can Dive into a website of choice and participate in it.
People can be anyone and anything. They can communicate with the so-called Mannies – the equivalent of a Non-Playing Character or an NPC, relive historical events, or be a LARPer in a completely fictional world – hustle, race, and so on.
But then a rogue AI stirs the pot. Gracie’s dad and his partner Paul develop a fully-functional AI and lose it (him) in the Waves. Or to be correct – the AI escapes.
The plot follows the AI’s unhealthy obsession with Gracie while she struggles with loss, escaping from the real world into the Waves. A few months back, Calista – Paul’s daughter and Gracie’s close friend, dies. She’s going through this with the help of Khaiam – Calista’s then-boyfriend, who’s also struggling with the loss in his own way.
Despite Khaiam’s best efforts, the only place that Gracie fits, are the Waves. And there she meets and names the AI Thomas, making it a riddle – why that name?
Wire Wings: The Characters
I would say this is your usual YA SF/F fiction, with the mandatory set of characters and their problems and specific characteristics. There’s a lot of diversity in the book, but it’s not the focus of the book. Thus, there are lots of characters, but they weren’t really developed, so that made me lower the rating for the book. Let’s focus on the main characters.
Your typical ‘my parents are geniuses, and I’m a complete disappointment, so I’ll go play at being awesome online’. I did not like that. There are a lot of ways to place a character without making them self-deprecate themselves and still get points for character development. Not to mention Gracie is anything but a disappointment.
“…she’s a manic pixie, a carefully crafted ball of steel and barbed wire.”
She’s strong-willed, tries hard to keep her sh*t together, and even though it’s hard and she’s struggling, she keeps pushing forward. All that ‘I’m a failure’ was a bit too much. Especially when her parents obviously thought of anything but supporting their daughter. That’s a major point in the book – parents-children relationships.
Anyways, as far as character development goes, she was set up from the get-go for something like saving the day and being awesome in real-life situations, not just online. But did she actually save the day?
Poor Khaiam. I liked how he turned out to be. He was a true friend and was fighting his own battles while trying at the same time to help Gracie cope with their loss.
Khaiam is the type of character you want to wrap up in a blanket and lock in your closet to protect from the horrible world. I can’t say we saw much of him since Wire Wings is a third-person POV from Gracie’s perspective, but what I saw, I liked.
Now that piece of sh*t. There’s a huge twist at the end, but if you follow closely, you can read through it somewhere a third into the book, as it happened with me. There’s a second twist that saved the day, but I’m not giving that out.
As an AI, Thomas was a cool build. He didn’t feel so artificial because he has his emotions, etc, but that bitterness of not being able to follow people into the real world, I imagine is a trait AI’s can possibly share.
That being said, and based on the twist at the end, his motivation wasn’t clear enough for me. He was hell-bent on causing trouble for Gracie’s dad and Paul, hell-bent on making his own rules.
But that vengeful glimpse, I couldn’t really grasp at it. It falls somewhere between the cracks and gets lost, even though I can rationalize it myself. And I like characters with clear motivation behind their behavior.
Wire Wings Is a Solid 3.5*
I’d say Wire Wings is definitely worth your time. The last couple of pages are a BOMB. I did not expect that, and that simple surprise boosted my overall rating to 3.5*. Spoiler warning for the hidden paragraph, don’t reveal if you don’t want the biggest spoiler of all!
In any case, this is a story about coming to terms with reality, holding on to your friends, and believing in yourself. This is a story about identity, and asks the question, does it really matter what we’re on the outside if we know what we’re on the inside?
In the grand scheme of VR books, Wire Wings by Wren Handman is a pleasant read. It picks up slowly but manages to gain speed halfway through the book. It’s engaging, vivid, and filled with a plethora of emotions you can go through, especially if you can relate to some of the characters (which I did).
The pacing was a bit confusing because the tense kept switching from present to past, and the action was scattered back and forth at the beginning. Thankfully, things gradually work out. The constant repetition of ‘she’ was a bit annoying. But the book definitely grows on you and the writing is pleasant.
Also, did I mention the cover is awesome?
Let me know down in the comments if you’ve read an arc of Wire Wings or if you’re excited about its future release!