Wanted & Wired (Tether #1) by Vivien Jackson #BookReview #ScifiUrbanDystopian #CyberpunkRomance
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Author Vivien Jackson’s bio may be the last page I read in this book, but it sets up the atmosphere of the Wanted & Wired story ‘verse just about perfectly. And the rest of Ms. Jackson’s bio is just as entertaining and appealing to a girl who grew up loving Han Solo and grew into a keen appreciation of Captain Mal…
Vivien Jackson writes fantastical, futuristic, down-home salacious kissery.
Right from the first scene, Wanted & Wired hits the ground running and immerses the reader in its futuristic dystopian setting, where terms like whole-organic and post-human have nothing to do with fancy grocery stores.
“I’ll let you know the details once I’ve completed my diagnostic.”
“That should be any minute now, though, right? It takes you, like, five hot seconds to check out my bios.”
“That’s because I have you loaded in active memory.”
“Eh?” What she wouldn’t have given for some plain speaking from her partner. For once. But he got her frustration, or must have, ’cause his half smile looked a little sheepish.
“Guess you could say you’re always on my mind.”
Not since my college Science Fiction English class have I had so much fun with futuristic urban sci-fi (okay, let’s just call it cyberpunk). Wanted & Wired invoked so many fond memories of the greats—like Asimov, Gibson’s Neuromancer, even Ghost in the Shell—and invited me to snark along with Mari’s obvious affinity with some very famous space pirate captains. Wanted & Wired fair shivers with a Wild West vibe that breathes life and vibrancy into an already brilliant story world. You can hear it in the turn of a phrase, the peek of a crinoline underskirt, the twang of the Texas-secessionist accents.
In the dim blue glow of the free-fae light, her eyes looked big as desert marigolds. Somebody who didn’t know about her love of all things deadly might end their assessment right at those eyes. Delicate, they’d think. Delicate and precious. Heron agreed, to a point. But he also knew what Mari was capable of. Delicate, precious, and… completely badass. The perfect mix.
And holy hell, this book packs some serious action sequences. About thirty percent in was one that had me grinning like a fool, with a Knight-Rider-meets-the-Avengers-meets-Firefly flair, and I’m pretty sure I actually fist-pumped when the scene careened to victory. Flashy cars are one thing—one thing I covet so very hard—but said sexy machine hardwired into a human brain and handled with finesse and utility… and some seriously lethal mods? Oh my. I think I may have a new hero crush. Heron is that perfect, killer combination of cool under pressure, crazy smart, uber confident, unpredictably lethal, and heart-wrenchingly vulnerable. Mari is his polar opposite in everything except dealing in death, and she owns her sexuality like few other female leads in the romance genre. Neither of the main characters loves killing, but they’re willing to do it to protect each other. Mari is a true badass, a sniper who has zero compunctions about taking out a mech or clone, and she’s as dangerous with her god-given limbs as she is with her favorite toys. She also has a deep-seated aversion to anything bio-mechanically enhanced, and Heron definitely falls under that heading.
About the last thing he expected was for her to keep gazing straight at him, flaying him layer by layer with hot-whiskey eyes.
She stroked a finger over his bare knuckles. “Well, we already talked about the guilt, got that sorted. So I’m guessing something else is going on. Ain’t it always? Tell me.”
Her voice was made of temptation. Heron pressed his lips flatter before he spoke, out loud and in his most uptight, professory tone. “Well, for one thing, physically, I’m hampered by this transmission, this virus. I appropriated voluntary control of most of my autonomic systems some time ago, but…”
“The big words do turn me on, but I flunked out sophomore year. You want me to follow this, it’s gotta be in English. Or Spanish, if you’d rather. Just not Genius.”
It takes a lot of something special to lure me away from chain reading romances, but Heron and Mari and the world Ms. Jackson has built around them are just fascinating. I’d read a whole series dedicated to Heron’s youth, just watching him grow up, come into his own, become this incomparable, alluring other.
“For instance, you got any exposed electrical ports? Spots I oughtn’t get wet?”
He looked down at her. Agony. Blissful, sharp, buttered agony. “Only in my head and hands, and even there, nanocoated seams make the electronics waterp… fuck.” Her unspoken question hit him in the gut. “Yes, Mari, you may put your mouth all over me.”
Wanted & Wired is an adrenaline-inducing sci-fi adventure that skips across a canvas splashed with primers of Wild West, sophisticated-steampunk flair, and even space pirates of a sort (but the kind who spend as much time running black ops on the ground as holed up in their cozy mercenary space plane). All things that, on their own, wouldn’t really appeal to me, but this story world is addicting and all kinds of creative. Like so many of the sci-fi classics, Wanted & Wired wrestles with the philosophical definition of humanity: What defines ‘human’? Where does ‘machine’ begin? How comfortable do we trust ourselves to become with tech before we lose our sense of self, control over our own destinies? This story is steeped in diversity—racial, bio-mechanical, sexual, sub-genre—you name it, and Wanted & Wired just might have it.
Straight up, you won’t find many stories like this in the romance market right now, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tether story universe inspires a thriving new cyberpunk romance sub-genre. Any romance or urban fantasy reader who gets the warm fuzzies thinking about Star Wars or Firefly or Isaac Asimov will adore Wanted & Wired, be sucked in right from the start and beg for more when it ends. Me? I’m excited to see what’s coming next for Mari, Heron, and all their precious things.
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Reading Wanted & Wired reminded me a little of the dynamics (and sheer power of the hero character) in Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews. While the Hidden Legacy story universe feels more like traditional urban fantasy—with magic rather than science and, on the whole, a lot less sex—the tenacity of the characters, the seething undercurrents of sexual attraction, and the innovation of the story world in both series ring pure and inspire serious addiction.
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