A review by mweis
Firebreak, by Nicole Kornher-Stace

adventurous challenging dark emotional 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


*I received an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Pitched as Ready Player One meets Black Mirror, Firebreak is set in a near future U.S. that has devolved into two corporation-nations battling for control of whatever land hasn't flooded. It follows Mal as she works multiple jobs in a gig economy trying to survive.

Dystopia in media isn't usually my thing and my gaming experience is pretty much limited to Animal Crossing, but I saw the main character listed as aro/ace and knew I had to give this a try, and I am so glad I did.

I loved Mal! She is not a Chosen One. She is prickly and socially awkward and just trying her best to do the right thing and stay alive. I loved her grumpy/sunshine ladybromance dynamic with Jessa, and I loved that her platonic crush on 22 had all the intensity of a romantic crush when all she wanted was to be his friend because honestly same. That being said, the neither "aromantic" nor "asexual" appears explicitly in the text (the closest it gets is an instance of Jessa saying Mal "doesn't do that" in a conversation about sex), and while that detract from the representation for me, I know that might not be the case for others.

I also really loved the world Kornher-Stace created. From the corporation-nations to water scarcity to the Twitch/Patreon like virtual reality element being Mal’s main source of income in a nearly 100% gig economy, it all felt eerily possible and provided a good backdrop for conversations about corporate greed, celebrity, and what it means to be a "good citizen". The gaming elements were also really well explained and I really liked the way the VR interacted with the “real” world.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the last 25% or so of the book. The plot started to feel a little predictable and while it was still emotional, I wasn't as gripped as in the first 75%. And I wanted more of 6 and 22, though I understand why there isn't more of them.

That being said, I found this to be well-written, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining though quite bleak. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes sci-fi/dystopia or is looking for good aro/ace rep and am looking forward to rereading my finished copy!