Fast-paced action, intriguing characters, and a universe that I can’t wait to further explore in Milo Behr’s second novella… I think it’s fair to say that “Beowulf: A Bloody Calculus” is one of the best cyberpunk reads I’ve come across lately. The story grabbed my attention from page one, and I couldn’t put my Kindle down until I finished it. I simply had to know what happened next.
Beowulf is a different kind of superhero. It’s the kind of superhero that people of a highly technologized 22nd century need to assure them that they’re still in control of their own lives and what happens out there, in the world, when their implants allow them to experience anything they want from the comfort of their home. Together with Booth, the host of the most popular variety show, Beowulf tracks down outlaws and punishes them for their crimes live, at the public’s request. Sometimes, this means killing them. So, yes, Milo Behr’s novella is dark, gritty, and it explores a possible outcome of allowing technology to take over our lives. The enhancements do make things easier, but they also make people vulnerable, as it happens to the victims in “Beowulf”. Also, they may give a truly smart hacker the possibility of playing God.
The author starts from an interesting premise, which, of course, has been present before in cyberpunk works, and delivers an action-packed story that keeps readers guessing. The characters are well defined, and by the end of the novella I found myself liking a character that I initially disliked. And I’m talking here about Booth, who seems to be only interested in the rankings of his show, and not about morality and justice. The final scenes, however, put him in a different light, and I started to see that he does care about the people’s safety and freedom. I think Booth is a good example of character development done well in the limited space given by a novella.
“Beowulf: A Bloody Calculus” is a must-read for all fans of science-fiction and cyberpunk. The author’s original writing style is immersive, and the action scenes have just enough details to give you a clear view of what is happening and how. Bottom line: it was a fun and intense read that got me thinking about how it would be if we had everything we needed – information, medicines, entertainment –, just a thought away, and how much we’d have to pay for this comfort.