Shadowrun: Dark Resonance
Author: Phaedra Weldon
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Page Count: 360 (estimated)
Release Date: 12/18/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
My second dip in the Shadowrun novel pool was a bit more to my liking. Where the first was focused on a single run and team, this one has a much larger cast of characters and a bigger mystery to solve with bigger stakes. It also delved into technomancers, which I’m not nearly as familiar with since my experience with Shadowrun is back on the Genesis and with Shadowrun Returns and, if I remember right, Third Edition. Technomancers are more from the newest edition of the RPG, so it was a little confusing, at first, as to where they fit in and what they could do, but Phaedra Weldon does a great job of giving someone new to the technomancer some idea of what they’re capable of throughout the novel.
Focusing primarily on Kazuma Tetsu, Soldat online, the novel deals with his search for his sister, Hitori, who went missing months back without a trace. He’s a technomancer and hides it as well as he can using basic gear without really using it to hide his ability to connect to the Matrix without actually making a connection using gear. Technomancers are both feared and hated, and in this instance, wanted and dissected to see how their abilities work, so they keep underground to keep their abilities and whereabouts unknown. His sister was also a technomancer and he fears she’s vanished for good this time with only a name, Caliban, linking to her disappearance for a second time. Finding that name on a routine cleaning job for an old server, Kazuma decides to break in on his own and swipe the data to see what’s in there, only the PCC are interested in the data as well as the original owner of the data who wants it back before the servers and building are demolished. That’s when his personal investigation go sideways.
A shadowrunning team, operated by Mack Schmetzer, hired by the PCC hits the building up the same night Kazuma does and two security guards and the teams shaman are murdered in the building and at first the murder is linked to Kazuma by the team’s lead as Kazuma’s partner and girlfriend, Silk, scrambled the team’s getaway van. Things have gotten worse as the shaman’s body has disappeared and their other runner has gone off the grid. Mack’s not ready to take this lying down and wants the data back, especially since his contact is an undercover agent with the PCC. The worst part is no one seems to know what data was being kept on a server that was about to be shut down that’s worth killing for.
Another of Kazuma’s online friends has gone missing, last seen sampling an online game called TechnoHack that’s supposed to paint being a technomancer in a good light and show what they can do to try and bring things around for the maligned group. Not wanting to seem out of place, Kazuma heads back into work and is ambushed by a dwarf named Mr. Powell comes calling on Kazuma with a pet technocritter which Kazuma barely escapes from and the chase is on from there. Not only does Kazuma need to get the data before a shadowrunnning team and now some private security guy with a thing for technomancers, but he also has to piece together how it ties in with his sister and a video game that keeps making the news for dying servers.
I think one of the big points I liked about this was the descriptions for the Matrix and the actions within. Especially with how the technomancers access and deal with the Matrix. It’s a big part of the book and probably wouldn’t work nearly as well in any other medium. The technomancers are probably the biggest stars in this one as far as classes from the game system go, so if you don’t like dealing with the Matrix as much, this might not be the book for you. Overall though, I loved it. There’s enough real world interaction to keep everything grounded with the characters and to make sure the reader has that kind of reference even when dealing with the Matrix. We get some nice touches with the characters about keeping in shape or keeping up your body while you spend so much time online. The usual big bad corrupt corporation is ever present and as usual nothing is ever quite what it seems.
While I don’t necessarily think this would be an ideal introductory novel for people new to Shadowrun, there’s enough explanation and detail that anyone not into it could get by. For people familiar with it there’s a lot here to go with but it also makes use of characters from past Shadowrun novels that I didn’t catch as I’m haven’t hit the previous books in the Shadowrun set. Dirk Montgomery and Netcat are two that I found while I was doing some snooping as to who’s been used before, but from the way Mack and his group are written they either have a past that haven’t been explored in novels or sourcebooks yet or they’ve been active in them before. It’s a nice mix here and broadens the scope of the novel really.
This is a great mystery novel on top of being an excellent cyberpunk novel and a fast-paced and involved Shadowrun story. It’s a compelling set of circumstances and I like that even while we get some behind the scenes with the main villains, we’re still left to piece a lot of this together with Kazuma, the police and Mack’s team. We get a lot of different viewpoints and while it does jump around and play a little bit with the timing, the reader never really gets lost with the large number of characters. They’re each really memorable and have depth and motivation to them, even if it’s in brief. This has a great pace to it as well that had me burn through it pretty quickly when I got a chance to actually sit and read it. So don’t let the page count fool you, this moves at a nice brisk pace that’ll keep you flipping pages.