Short Review: Altered Carbon with zombies… for better or worse.
Longer Review: It’s the future, and humanity has achieved near immortality through the transfer of sentience and memory to new bodies—coils. Death is just a blip on the mental radar. Carter Langston is a space salvager, working on the crew of a small ship when they discover what seems to be an abandoned ship in the inner solar system. The operation goes smoothly, until it doesn’t, and Langston finds himself waking in the body of a new coil. His last backup having happened before the crew left station, Langston is unaware of what happened, only that there is a gap. When an assassin comes knocking, however, the gap urgently seems worth investigating.
Well-paced, nicely structured, and featuring straight-forward diction, J.T. Nicholas' Re-Coil (2020) is genre, consumable science fiction that deploys its devices well. Readers looking for escape will find it in Langston’s space opera adventure. If a sophisticated look at the meaning of existence in a world where corporality has become a commodity is your aim, you will need to look elsewhere. Zombies requiring blasting are here.
As such, Re-Coil is a difficult novel to dig deeper into without this review devolving into a plot rehash (which, if I’m being cynical, is what a lot of “reviews” are on the web these days). There are moments Langston flirts with ideas and questions pertaining to what is a very different meaning of existence, but largely these are used to frame certain scenes or moments, the thoughtfulness fading quickly in favor of suspense or action.
In the end, Re-Coil is what I would call popcorn science fiction. It tastes good for a moment but doesn’t leave a lasting flavor, which, for some readers or moments, is what the doctor ordered. Not overstaying its welcome, the novel is a short read that combines established sf tropes into a story at times action-packed and others ordinary, but overall should be on the radar of readers who like space mystery/horror.