Title & Author: The Debt Collector — Season One, Susan Kaye Quinn
Genre & Publication Date: Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk, December 31, 2013
Book Description: (From Season One): “In this sexy, gritty future-noir, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more “worthy”… all while paying the price with black marks on their souls.
Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat and jackboots—he’s just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja’s sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane… until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn’t what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone—a dark pit he’s not sure he’ll be able to climb out of again.
Originally written as a serial, SEASON ONE of Debt Collector contains the complete story of Lirium. There are five planned seasons, each from the perspective of a different debt collector.”
First Line: My jackboots are new, the latest ultra-light material out of Hong Kong’s synthetics district, and they make a strange squeaking sound against the hospital floor.
My Take: I feel like I don’t get to read enough cyberpunk. There’s Sci-Fi that comes close but doesn’t have enough grime and despair to really hit the spot. This hit the spot.
Season One features Lirium. He is what’s known as a debt collector in this dystopian world, a person able to draw the life force from another with a touch. All debt collectors work for a centralized government agency who determines which individuals should be “cashed out” and which ones are deserving of “pay out” (extra life force). This determination is based on your cost to society versus your contribution to it. Got a medical condition you’re not going to recover from and debts that exceed your ability to pay? Well then, it’s likely you’ll see Lirium show up at your hospital door to take the days/months/years you had left. In this future, the government feels your life force is worth more to society in the hands of “high potentials” than with you. Who are these high potentials? You guessed it, people with money, power, and positions of influence who bring innovation to the world. Sounds like a scenario rife with corruption? Ah, that’s where our story begins.
Lirium does a job that eats away at his soul every time he takes life from the poor, the indigent, and the infirm only to pass it on to someone in perfect health who gets to have a boost because of their status. He fills in the emptiness with shallow pleasures to forget long enough to survive until his next assignment. Definitely a flawed dude what with the prostitutes and booze, but a tortured one whose remorse is slowly killing him. Then one day he meets a girl who isn’t what she seems and asks him to pay out to someone who really needs it. Things only get more interesting from there with government intrigue, an illegal black market trading in life force, the mob, and fellow debt collectors who may or may not be on Lirium’s side.
The Magical: As always, Quinn’s worldbuilding is top notch. So many layers from the bottom of society up, from the dingy alley dealings to the ivory tower exchanges. She makes it seem so real I start to get a little nervous given the health care crisis we have going on in the U.S. right now.
The Mundane: Didn’t feel like we needed two love stories for our hero. I still rooted for him all the way, and it’s not that he was a player, but this made it hard to believe he was actually giving his heart to someone in truth.
Summary of Thoughts: Immersive and fast-paced, this series has been optioned for virtual reality by Immersive. Characters are flawed but compelling, their motivations complex and believable. This one had such a unique premise and the gritty cyberpunk world just added to the awesome. There are two seasons out and I really hope the author keeps going with this story. Originally published in segments, the entire first season (all 400+ pages) is on sale for a limited time for only $0.99 (also on Kindle Unlimited). Less than a buck, people. Can’t do better than that for a great read!
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Want to know more about the author and her work? Explore her website here