Ghost in the Machine by Barbara J. Hancock
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (79 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Orchid
Rule number one: Run from the Shadows. Unless one knows the secret that will save you.
A Cybershock story.
I live in a world of waifs and shadows. Live might be an overstatement. I scrounge and scramble and survive in an atmosphere made thick and gray by the ashes of the Fallen. And sometimes I dream of sunlight. My parents were taken, even though they followed all the rules. Never scavenge at night. Never talk to Shadows. Don’t fight the Sweepers. Run. Run. Run.
Now that they’ve taken my little brother, Douglas, I’ve realized I’ve only been surviving for him. I have two choices: Follow him or lie down and die. I can’t just quit after years of struggle. I wouldn’t know how if I tried. Determination is all I have left.
And then I meet him.
He claims to be a rogue who can help me find my brother. It’s got to be a lie. But I don’t run. I stop. I listen. And I make a deal with a Shadow even though I know it will mean the death of me.
Never talk to Shadows.
But no one ever told me what would happen if I kissed one.
The Soul Eater has come to Earth. With the souls gone only shadows remain. Shadows of a life from the past. The few people who avoid the Soul Eater are constantly running from the shadows and sweepers who try to drive them to their master.
Elizabeth, or Bet, returns to her squat to find her young brother Douglas has been taken by a sweeper. Desperate to rescue him before he becomes a shadow, she begins the dangerous journey to the Soul Eater’s lair. Shadows fill the night and Bet must evade them if she is to survive.
Gabriel is a shadow with a difference. He still has compassion and struggles to keep his humanitarian side. Intrigued by Bet he tries to help her.
Bet doesn’t trust Gabriel, but knows that without him she will not succeed with her rescue. Alone for so long, she feels drawn to this shadow who looks like an angel, but is he really trying to lure her into the Soul Eater’s clutches?
The Earth of this novel is dark; full of shadows, dirt and danger. Bet is older than her years due to the need to stay alive and out of the Soul Eater’s clutches. Without going into reams of description, the author made me see the desperate plight of the characters, the darkness and despair. At the heart of it all sat the alien Soul Eater. Like a spider this creature pulled in the emotions, thoughts and dreams of the people of Earth, leaving behind a shadow, a husk without substance.
Gabriel and Bet were at opposite ends of the spectrum. She is a fighter, but assumes he is merely another shadow, a bit different, but still in the thrall of the evil alien. He had to struggle to stay in control. If he failed, the Soul Eater would take him completely.
Ghost in the Machine is a well thought out book although the storyline did tend to wander some at times. I also got a bit confused about the shadows and sweepers, but tended to enjoy the inner thoughts of both characters.
If you like your fantasy set in an alternate future of darkness with a hint of redemption then Ghost in the Machine could be just what you’re looking for.