Sunday, June 25, 2023

Street Freaks

I was really looking forward to reading Street Freaks by Terry Brooks.  I've enjoyed many of his fantasy books, and was really interested in seeing what he could do in a science fiction setting.  

Street Freaks opens with Ash Collin's life imploding: his father sends him a message to get out of their house moments before bots storm the place.  Ash manages to escape and make his way to Street Freaks, the place his father told him to go should anything happen.  There he meets several kids who have all been "tweaked" in some way: Holly is a powerful cyborg who was reconstructed after an accident, TJ was born in a test tube and engineered to be the perfect soldier, Jenny has tanks that filter her blood, Woodrow, a boy whose entire body is robotic after a wasting disease almost killed him, and Cay, a synthetic girl created as a pleasure robot.  The group quickly takes him in, shielding him as best they can from the powerful group trying to find him, all the while helping him try to get to the bottom of why they are after him.

I wanted to like Street Freaks.  I really did. But I really, really didn't.

Most of the plot progressed through people simply refusing to tell Ash things right now.  The first time that happened, okay, whatever.  But by about the fifth time it happened, I'd really had enough of it.  It's one thing if the group put things together as they discovered them through hacking or whatever.  But people repeatedly just not wanting to tell Ash things got real old real quick.

Ash was also not the most interesting character.  He was naive and often very childish.  People repeatedly told him to grow up, and some of the things he failed to realize seemed really silly, especially after the book kept telling us he has an amazing memory - like how did he fail to put some of these things together?  He wasn't exactly unlikable (most of the time - I'll get back to that).  He was just super bland and uninteresting.  

The plot had some issues as well.  I knew (or at least very heavily suspected) fairly early on who was probably the bad guy.  And they were the bad guy.  But not in a super interesting way either.  More in the "I'm going to monologue for ten pages and explain everything" kind of way.  Which really shouldn't have been that surprising, as most of the book felt like explanation rather than action.  I was willing to forgive this at the beginning, as it takes place in a new world and everything was explained (though this felt a bit too on the nose - I would have preferred that we see how more things work, rather than being told about them).  But I was thoroughly sick of it as the book went on and continued in this vein.

There was also an unnecessary romance plot-line as well involving Ash and Cay.  Ash fell in love with her at first sight.  He was told (by some of the others, but even Cay herself) that she was built to be attractive to men (and women who are attracted to women), so he should get over this because it's not real and she's not interested anyway.  But he continues to try to pursue her, even after she repeatedly tells him to stop.  It was very cringe-worthy to be reading this over and over again.  But even more cringe-worthy when it eventually kind of works (at the end of the book she realizes that he actually does see her as a person, so she immediately loves him too).  

So unfortunately, I do not recommend this book.  I kept hoping it would get better, especially after the initial heavy-handed worldbuilding was out of the way.  But sadly, that was not to be.