Reviews

Firebreak, by Nicole Kornher-Stace

bookplaits's review

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challenging mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0


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ramblingoutloud's review

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adventurous emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

This book was not at all what I expected. It's packed with action, but also with emotions and internal monologues. I really liked it and I want more. I could have read about this world for multiple hours more.

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actuallytheboss's review

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adventurous emotional hopeful tense
  • Loveable characters? Yes

5.0

amberthomasmsc's review

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adventurous funny mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

shereadstales's review

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adventurous inspiring tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.5

Thanks to Gallery Books/ Saga Press for the digital galley of this book.

New Liberty City, 2134. The United States has been replaced with two warring corporations, Stellaxis Innovations and Greenleaf. New Liberty City is at the center of the corporations properties and thus is in a state of perpetual battle. When she’s not working up to seven other jobs, Mallory is streaming Stellaxis’s wargame, SecOps on BestLife. She spends more time in virtual reality than actual reality, and she does it all for the water rations. She’s always thirsty. One day in game, by chance she spots one of the game’s rare super-soldiers, and it changes her life. First, there’s a potential sponsor deal that is more than it seems, then she starts meeting more super-soldiers and begins to uncover a potentially dangerous and sobering truth about the world she’s grown up in, and what the corporations are really capable of.

This one’s classified as adult sci-fi, but it read more like a YA novel to me, and I mean that in the best possible way. It was fast-paced, full of twists and turns with a hint of romance that didn’t totally ruin the rest of the story for me. I split my time between the print and audio version of this one just so I could mainline it even more quickly while I couldn’t read the physical copy.

There’s plenty in here reminiscent of Ready Player One and other dystopian works such as Cyberpunk 2077, but the characters make it unique. I was rooting for Mal 100%, even when I thought she made dumb decisions and wanted to smack her. That’s the beauty of characters in these types of books, they’re flawed and messy and just trying to figure it out, and you root for them all the way.

If you’re into nerd sci-fi with corruption and a messy heroine who has no idea how to save the day, check this one out. It’s a fun summer read. 

lilifane's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional hopeful mysterious sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

 OMG how do I even write this review.

Okay, so the story takes place in 2134 in a world where Americas coast are flooded, and the remaining states are ruled by two mega companies, Stellaxis Innovations which controls the water and Greanleaf which controls the food. Both companies are at constant war, especially in the one city that is divided between both fractions, New Liberty City.
The protagonist, Mal, is a 20-year-old living in Old Town, a refugee town outside of New Liberty City, in an old hotel room she shares with 7 other people. She has several part-time jobs and streams a popular VR game with her best friend Jessa in their free time. Food, water and power are rare, so they rely on small everyday rations as well as donations from subscribers of their small gaming channel.
When they manage to encounter one of the rare NPCs of the game in one of their stream, they are contacted by a new sponsor with an unusual request. And everything kind of escalates from there.

Don't get fooled by the synopsis, the gaming aspect is only 1/4 or 1/3 of the plot, there is much more to it, and you have no idea at the beginning where it will lead you. So if you prefer books where a plot is hinted at and then went through with... this might not be for you. What you will get though, is a super fast paced, f**cking intense story. It was so intense that I couldn't stop reading and when I reached the last two pages I just started crying.

Like with all Nicole Kornher-Stace books, I absolutely love the setting and world building. It's super immersive. (And considering it's a brutal dystopian world we're talking about I probably shouldn't count this as a positive aspect...) It's actually one of the best dystopian worlds I've ever read, just because it's so close to our world. You can clearly see how global warming, dwindling recourses and the privatization of ... basically everything ... might lead to this. But there are also some shiny technology and sci-fi elements which make the world intriguing.
I loved the character dynamics here. Mal's and Jessa's friendship is amazing, you don't get these kinds of female friendships very often. The found family aspect with the other people they are living with is so nice. I was also super happy when one of them had they/them pronouns. As usual for Nicole Kornher-Stace there is no romance plot in the book, but a lot of platonic love and a friendship crush. Although not written out specifically, it's heavily hinted at that Mal is aro/ace and this really means a lot to me. And her being an introvert and socially awkward didn't make her the most lovable character but definitely one I could relate to a lot.
Usually I don't like too many action/fighting scenes, but they didn't bother me here, they matched the atmosphere of the whole world (VR and RL) very well.
And then there are the topics and themes that are so important and relevant today. The negative aspects and dangers of capitalism, standing up for oneself and others, organizing protests as part of the fight for basic human rights and freedom, using social media as a weapon against oppression. There is also some commentary on social media fame, streaming and fandom culture. So I really enjoyed how thought-provoking this book was.
There is just one small critique I have. I wish Mal's feelings for 22 were explored a little bit more at the beginning of the book (a little bit more show than tell) to make the rest of it even more believable.

I knew that this was a stand-alone book with easter eggs for fans of Archivist Wasp and Latchkey. And I have to say, THOSE easter eggs.... I wish I had reread these 2 books before Firebreak to fully appreciate the easter eggs. 

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cabuff's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75

noellerose's review

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adventurous emotional mysterious sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

aseriesofvariousevents's review

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adventurous dark emotional funny medium-paced

5.0

Firebreak was the science fiction story I didn't know I needed. Far too much of sci-fi is men just doing cool stuff with technology, but this story turned that all on its head. Mal was one of the coolest protagonists I've read, and she, with the help of Jessa (and others), stuck up for what was right, consequences be damned. The world in this story was capitalism on a terrifying scale and it was both fascinating and heartbreaking to witness how this had tremendously affected characters on both sides of the class divide. Despite Mal's interactions with SpecOps being brief (both digitally and in person), their stories were still so powerful and made the story that much more impactful. The complex emotions of Mal and others felt very real, and, in some ways, this corporate country had deep echoes of our own. The characters in this book were captivating and the story was such an important addition to science fiction as a whole. 

diletto_amanda's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging informative inspiring tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A

5.0

 
At a glance: An orphan of the corporate war, Mallory works streaming the popular VR war game, only to find out that the supposedly “grown” celebrity super humans (which are intellectual property of Stellaxis) are actually stolen children just like her.

  • Dramatic Ending
  • Nomance
  • Emotional
  • Friendship Goals

Read this if…
you are in the mood for an action packed VR experience that has a ton of care put into every sentence. And if you love ride or die friendships!

Diversity Representation: own voices ace/aro rep


Content Warnings: violence, kidnapping, torture, capitalism, police brutality, capitalism, language, parental loss, poverty, war, loss

Action packed, anti-capitalist, compelling, well written, easy to follow, emotional, and tense.


Oh man, where do I begin? I really loved this book. When I opened it, I thought “man this is kind of long, I didn’t realize!” And then literally this book doesn’t slow down at any point. It is packed with amazing content. This is going to be a hard review, because it’s packed with so many different amazing things that I don’t know how well I can narrow it down! This book is easy to follow and fast paced, but delightfully anti-capitalist in a way that Ready Player One wishes it was.


Firebreak follows Mal, who lives with her 7 roommates in an old hotel room, living by the rules of the mega corporation, Stellaxis, amidst a corporate war stalemate. Mal and her best friend Jessa are mildly successful at streaming the wildly popular war VR game modeled after the real corporate war — the war that the corporations have monetized. Everything changes for Mal and Jessa when they get contacted by a mysterious sponsor who tells them that the super human celebrities, that everyone knows Stellaxis grew in a lab, are not lab experiments at all. They’re real war orphans, just like Mal and Jessa.


I have been reeling about this book since I finished it a few days ago
. It was done so well, I’m really impressed. The first thing that I just can’t get over was how much action was packed into this book. Not just action, but how so much information about the plot was weaved effortlessly directly into the action. We learned everything we needed to know for the journey through VR battles, mysterious disappearances, rebellion and secrets whispered in the garden. It never slowed down, but it managed to give us so many intricacies of plot weaved in perfectly.


The most impressive part to me was how the VR was so perfectly a part of the story.
It wasn’t difficult to follow whether we were in a digital world or the real world, even though they basically look exactly alike!! But not just that it was easy to follow the distinction (a huge feat in writing, I think), but I was most impressed that the virtual world and the real world paralleled each other so much. Not just in looks (that is blatantly stated), but in action! The real world of the book felt like a video game as well once the action was ramping up. Somehow Nicole managed to parallel the virtual world and the real world in so many ways while making the differences very clear the entire time. Incredible!


This book is filled with small moments that make big statements. It was absolutely stunning. From the corporations strictly owning the water supply but giving out brain implants for free, how important and life saving libraries can be, to the platonic M/F crush that Mal has for 22. I was truly stunned at how much care was placed in every bit of this book, every moment meant something, and I was really impressed the whole time.


Firebreak was truly incredible. It was everything I could have hoped for in a book. It was full of action but never missed a moment to make a statement on the important things. I’m truly impressed at what this book was able to accomplish without feeling weighed down at all. Absolutely wonderful!