Book Review: The Punch Escrow

Just wrote this while updating the status of this book on my Goodreads.com profile, and I figured I can always use more blog content.

Honestly my expectations were a bit too high and this fell short.

The standard I’m holding this to is ‘Nexus’ by Ramez Naam. Both feature a character forced into danger because of their relationship with a technology that undermines our concept of what it means to be human. But unlike ‘Nexus’ this didn’t explore its premise nearly as much as I hoped, and spent way too much time with some pretty standard fight and chase scenes. I was also very disappointed with the worldbuilding. The author clearly invested a lot of energy explaining the fictional physics that explain the in world technology, but the actual culture and lifestyles of 2147 felt unoriginal and uninteresting. The conceit of the protagonist being a social engineering hacker was a lot lamer than I was expecting- it mostly manifested as him effortlessly getting through locked doors by lying to a conversational AIs, because evidently 130 years from now all security systems have been replaced with really gullible robots.

Another problem with the world building- this book features the trope of a character in the future who makes pop culture references that are contemporary for the reader but over a century out of date for anyone in that world. I’m not trying to nitpick- References to Mr. T and Elon Musk and snarky t-shirts really take me out of the story, and it hurts the verisimilitude of the world that there’s been no new culture in the last 130 years. I suggest the trope be dubbed ‘Kleining’, because the only book that does it more than this one is ‘Ready Player One’.

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