Blurb:

Deborah Teramis Christian is back with a rousing stand-alone sequel to fan favorite Mainline…

One of the many charms of planet Lyndir is the Between-World, home to the licensed entertainers of the Sa’adani empire. The most famous is Kes, a professional dominatrix who has become a celebrity attraction at a palatial dungeon called Tryst.

One of Kes’s most devoted clients is the infamous interplanetary political operative Janus, the last man standing when his business fell apart on Selmun III, and now a major cog in Lyndir’s political machine. When a high-powered imperial authority decides she wants Janus out of the way, the seductive domna Kes is the most logical avenue. She’d never betray a client’s trust, but the threat to her and her Sa’adani sisters is so great that she has no choice but to assist.

Imprisoned, altered against her will, and turned into a brutal weapon by the highly experimental Splintegrate cloning technology, Kes is at war with herself as everything she holds dear falls apart around her. It will take an enormous triumph of will and help from some unlikely avenues for Kes to survive the government’s machinations and pursue the independence she’s craved her entire life.

Splintegrate will be available on December 31, 2019. Preorder now!

Quote:

“See, limited nanoneurals map only what we want them to. This is how we splinter a personality – we reproduce just a select part of it. Then we create clones with only the aspects we desire to see.”

Review:

Splintegrate is one of the most uncomfortable, horrifying things I’ve ever read. The atmosphere is cloying. The fear is palpable. The story is very, very interesting, but I could only handle it in small doses. Every time I picked up the book with the intention of finishing it, I had to put it down again after a half hour.

The world was incredibly well laid out. The first quarter of the book was dedicated to introducing our main characters and the world. It is so complex, I’m still not even certain I have all the details right. There are a conglomeration of worlds, all being ruled by an Emperor, who is currently dying. The technology of these worlds is incredibly advanced, with cloning being an accepted part of politics. Even their porn is more advanced.

In fact, politics plays a heavy part of the events in Splintegrate. Whether the characters want to participate or not. There is the primary politics of assuring the Empire is stable as the Emperor is dying, by any means necessary. There is the secondary politics of the more unsavory characters, and how they are running their businesses. This is just a heavily politically influenced book.

Plus, there is the world of Lyndir, which is home to “licensed entertainers” and has Shigasu houses, run by clans, that employ the entertainers. Some who wanted to be there, and some who have no choice. The main character of the book, Kes, is one of the people at the Shigasu without much choice: when she got into debt, and it was either sell her body or end up in prison. Now, she is a high priced Dominatrix, The Queen of Winter, and she is heavily sought after. Her past is riddled with bad events, and her future doesn’t sound like it is going to be all that great, either. She has a home now, he belongs to her Shigasue Clan. Yet they can still compel her to do things for the good of the clan.

And that thing they can compel Kes to do? Go with Ilanya Evanivit, the chief of Internal Security’s elite Political Division. Which is a lot of words to say she is one of the most politically powerful people in the Sa’adani Empire. And Eva wants to catch one of Kes’s customers, for the good of the Empire. Janus is a businessman by less than above board practices. And Eva has determined he is in the way, to be removed by any means necessary. Any. Means. Necessary.

And those means are through the use of the Splintegrate project, the horrifying work of Metmuri Esimir. Esimir’s goal is to split someone’s personality into clones, take out the bad parts, and leave only good parts behind, before reintegrating the personality later without those undesirably aspects. This is to rehabilitate prisoners who murder and such. Only he works for the Navy, who is funding this project. Three guesses as to why the Navy want the Splintegrate project to succeed. Hint: it isn’t for rehabilitation.

I’d like you to take a moment to reread that paragraph and reflect on how utterly horrifying that entire concept is.

And that is what they want to do to Kes. In order to catch someone who is in the way. My heart was pounding the entire time leading up to this Splintegration process.

Like I said in the beginning, this book is horrifying. I was so uncomfortable reading this book. It took me a long time to get into. At least a quarter is spent on just setting up the story, and it took me until the midway point of the book to really get into the story and attached to the characters. There are a lot of moving pieces, a lot of characters, and a lot of information dumped all at once, so I was confused for a long time. But once I got into the characters, it was smooth sailing ahead. Even if I did get attached against my better wishes since this is not the type of story that feels like it is going to end well.

Splintegrate handles a lot of mature topics. There is the dominatrix dominance/submission aspects and a master/slave relationship. There is the concept of owning people and debtors prisons. The main character hates her situation with a passion and can’t wait to buy out her contract so she doesn’t have to work and have sex with anyone anymore unless she wants to. There was pure body horror and psychological torture. It was grisly and shocking without resorting to violence. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some other hard topics. Yet, there wasn’t actually any sex scenes. It came close a few times, but the focus of Splintegrate was not the sex, it was the topics at hand.

And if you’re curious if you need to read Mainline first: No. I didn’t feel at any point like I was missing out on anything for not having read Mainline. From what I gathered in the book, Splintegrate actually takes place several hundred years in the future. And also Mainline isn’t actually being published (no ebook, can only buy third hand) anymore so this is a good thing.

ARC received from Tor Books on Edelweiss. This did not affect my review.