Series: Lieben Cycle #1
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2085 The world recovers from War. A squeal of tires chases Dr. Dieter Karnak, as he creates artificial life under his corporate partner’s begrudging nose. Dr. Robert Dunlevy doesn’t buy into such spiritual nonsense. He builds god damned machines, the way their Conglom overlords want.
2155 AD-001 swims to the shore of Vancouver Island. Lieutenant Max Allard is tasked to drag AD-001 back, before the Mater Machine claims ‘it’ for her own.
AI meets genetic engineering, when the Idless, a collective of anti-label anarchists, attempt to free Dr. Karnak’s android Lieben from the Conglomerate. 70 years later, gene-spliced super soldier AD-001 sees humans for the first time. A spiral of origins chase Lieben’s ghost in this sci-fi adventure filled with kick-ass female & non-binary heroes, supreme science and a spider big enough for a salad bowl… ‘Come at your leisure. My love is free. My abundance is yours.’
I never thought a science fiction story could be so beautiful. I’ve seen movies and read plenty of stories where man triumphs over machine, which can be heartfelt. NEON Lieben by Sapha Burnell is much more than that. Granted, sometimes the beauty is brutal, but that just adds to the richness and complexity of the story. This is one of those rare tales that will have you thinking about the characters and what they stand for long after you finish reading the book. In short, it’s everything that you’d expect from a science fiction book and nothing like you’ve ever read.
We follow two storylines in this book: the first is the birth of Lieben, the first of her kind, a miracle of android perfection, who is created to embody the best of humanity. We follow Lieben’s journey, from her abrupt and unplanned awakening to her flight from corporate giants who want to use her, and the efforts of the Idless, off-grid warriors who will risk their lives to save her. The other storyline is years later, and we find a world split between the one basking under the benevolent aegis of Mater Lieben and the group of humans rebelling against the effortless life she offers. This new world is about to change again, as we meet a group of gene-spliced bio-machines who will challenge the humans’ view of what it actually means to be human.
The author does a masterful job of immersing the reader in a world that is familiar yet strange. There are a number of utterly unique characters that play integral parts, and you feel each one of them (good and bad) as they progress on their journeys. The plot is complex but laid out so well that it’s easy to move between the storylines without them being predictable. Being a lifelong student of mythology, I appreciated the inclusion of religious mysticism and classical mythology into the story, the personalities, and the names of the characters.
I’m happy that this is Book One because when I reached the end, I was so immersed in the story it was a bit like having someone dump cold water on me. When I turned that last page, I was ready to immediately pick up the next book and was more than a little put out that I didn’t have it. Needless to say, I highly recommend, NEON Lieben (Lieben Cycle Book 1) by Sapha Burnell a hauntingly beautiful, fierce, thought-provoking, and gripping book. Five big stars! Book reviewed by DL Courtney.