Ferrett Steinmetz’s high-octane cyberpunk romance Automatic Reload about a tortured mercenary and the genetically enginnered assassin he loves.
Meet Mat, a tortured mercenary who has become the perfect shot, and Silvia, an idealistic woman genetically engineered to murder you to death.
Together they run for the shadiest corporation in the world…and realize their messed-up brain chemistry cannot overpower their very real chemistry.
Automatic Reload is the genre’s most unexpectedly heartfelt romantic comedy with explosions, perfect for fans of both Altered Carbon and Atomic Blonde.
Automatic Reload will be released on July 28, 2020. Preorder Now!
I mean, how would I react if I was a civilian shoved into some freaky hentai-body, my family threatened, on the run from both the IAC and some counterorganization as powerful as the IAC?
I..had a time reading this book. I really enjoyed the premise in the blurb. However, through most of the book, I had some complex feelings about it, but I never really could say I liked it. I kept reading because as much as I didn’t like it, I didn’t hate it, either. I felt pretty neutral about what was going on. The ending changed that.
Automatic Reload follows a mercenary named Mat who has replace a large portion of his body with machinery. Weapons, mostly. Though he does have a printer in his knee to give relevant laws to TSA folks. Due to his past experiences, he also has a wicked case of PTSD. Mat not only fine tunes his mechanical limbs and weapons to utter perfection, his anxiety makes certain that he fine tunes every single plan he makes to result in the least amount of life lost possible.
Mercenaries like Mat do a lot to avoid working for a shadow organization known as IAC that basically runs the world. The IAC know everything there is to know, and they’ll do anything to realize their shadowy goals. Mat will not work for them, despite how well they’ll pay. However, someone he knows is willing to pay him a fortune if Mat will accompany him on a job.
It goes poorly.
This job that turns out to be the transportation of a human being named Silvia. Silvia is just as broken as Mat. Her biggest problem at the moment is that she has had her entire body, except for her mind (obviously), replaced by machinery without her knowledge or consent. This has resulted in her time between thinking about a thing to reacting to the thing is nonexistent. She is all reflex. Which is a problem when you have a completely debilitating panic disorder with a history of hurting people in your panic. And an even bigger problem when you are now being hunted by police, a shadow organization trying to retrieve its lost property (you), and another organization willing to take on the shadow organization in order to acquire you.
In concept, all of this is fine. But I have some issues with what I got, though until the final fifth of the book, I was okay with it. My biggest issue was Mat. He talks about his body constantly. It is “my arms can do this”, and “oo look at what my weapons can do”. And it isn’t reserved for just him. Others do this, and he does this about others. I didn’t like this in Rachel Bach’s Paradox trilogy, I didn’t like it here. This constant bragging about his body and what it could do quickly became boring, and then it just kept going long after I was bored, and long after what I thought was acceptable to know about his capabilities. Especially because he had to fix it a few times.
And this is in stark contrast with his mind, which is in shambles. At first this was one of the few things I actively liked. I liked the fact that Mat was flawed. And in fact, there is something to be said for how his anxiety due to PTSD allows him to love his body for what it could do, and hate his body for what it could do, too. It is somethnig worth discussing. This isn’t bad on its surface.
However, between Mat and Silvia together, I had a problem. And it isn’t really their relationship, which is really weird and there could be complaints about it. Like the fact that they have only known each other for literally a handful of hours and they already like each other (which could be chalked up to battle stress). Or the fact that, in a lot of ways Silvia is a child compared to him. A child not only in mind and actions, but in body too, since she just got a new one and has to learn what it can do. He has to find a way for her to have her own agency, while on the run. Which ends up being just..helping him. It felt a bit off.
My bigger issue was that the synergy of both Mat’s disability and Silvia’s disability produced an odd effect where it went beyond just accepting who they were as people or learning living with their disabilities. It became over the top. And this odd effect just grew as the story went on. Maybe I’m reading something into this that isn’t there, because as of writing this I haven’t read of anyone else talking about this (though it isn’t released yet so skewed results there).
Every plot point is affected by their disability, which is a good thing. That’s the way it often is in real life. But then everything is solved by their disabilities, as well. And the results of their problem solving is not just appreciated by others it is almost deified. It is oddly too far in the opposite direction. It left me unsettled.
She’s a head grafted to a bioengineered body she’s not sure she can control.
Yet she’s magnificent—not despite her panic disorder, but because of it.
I’m not disabled myself, so maybe it is as simple as me just not understanding from that viewpoint. I’m just sort of more aware of this more than normal because I have been watching a lot of Molly Burke‘s videos on Youtube, and she is very clear that while she is perfectly capable of doing a lot of things, she is still disabled, and some things she just cannot do. And Automatic Reload doesn’t feel like that because the disabilities are used to overcome every problem, and if they are a hindrance it isn’t for long because they turn it on its head and make it a good thing instead.
Also, their entire relationship based almost entirely on their love of old movies and their understanding of each others’ mental disorders. The classic movie thing is fine. Though this takes place in our future, and I feel it is a bit weird that they’re talking about movies that came out before I was born, often by decades. But I guess classics are classics and they’re never going away. I just felt left out of the conversation. I think I’ve seen one movie this book talked about? And that was the godfather, not Star Wars. And I know I did not know where quite a few of the references were from. They even communicated in old movies, and part of the plot kind of hinged on them understanding what they were talking about – in old movie speak.
All of these are problems. For me. Not always for others as well. In fact, this was a three star read until the last fifth of the book. All of these problems could mostly be chalked up to the fact that this just wasn’t really the book for me. Even if it seemed like it was on the surface.
Not so with the ending. I actually felt offended. And like I wasted my time reading this book. And I never feel this way. If I had known how this was going to end, I would not have read this book at all. I didn’t see it coming. Which is not why I felt offended. I felt offended by the ridiculousness of the concept. Which didn’t work. For a while leading up to the ending of the book, I wasn’t certain how it would end because there really wasn’t a clear, good option. But Steinmetz took any good, or not good, option off the table. Which I guess is one way to end a book. For a concept that doesn’t really work when you think through the logistics of it.
Automatic Reload just did not work for me. I spent a large portion of the book alternating between being bored and being oddly put off by some of the things I was reading. And then I left offended. And didn’t even want to finish the book. This was not a win for me.
I leave you with this quote:
You can see the ragged ‘V’ where her dark-brown skin has been fused with clumps of dragonfly-green twitching fiber molded into a vague torso shape. The spasming pseudoflesh has been shaped into a hyperattractive Barbie hourglass, complete with nippleless breasts and an undulating vagina—almost sculpted smooth, except tiny hairlike tendrils on it ripple individually, sensing my entrance, forming hypnotic spirals as they focus in on me.
Yet the female shape is clearly designed to distract—put sexy clothes on that, and men would be too busy staring at her curves to notice how her head’s a little too big for a proper fit, how her arms hang too low.