Indie Feature Friday: Replika by Hugo Bernard
Cyberpunk Book Review
Every so often, I pick up an indie book that absolutely blows me away. Replika, by Hugo Bernard, is one such book.
There are a lot of indies that really nail the action-packed thriller style of writing, and I love reading those books, too. Indie readers, and the indie author community, are usually geared toward fast-paced genre fiction, so these are the indie novels most likely to see success.
But when an indie knocks it out of the park with a slow-burn, literary sci-fi story it’s something special. Maybe not so much if you don’t like slow-burn, literary sci-fi.
But I love it.
And for me, Replika was a fantastic find!
I’m not really sure what I expected when I started this book. After chatting with the author, I knew it was more literary in style. To be honest, I’m always a little worried when reading a new author that they will mistake “literary” for “convoluted and pretentious.”
That is definitely not the case here. The prose is smooth, the characters are realistically drawn, and the theme is handled elegantly.
Replika is a complex novel that seamlessly interweaves multiple POVs, slowly revealing an overarching plot that connects them all to one another while never losing track of the individual POV characters’ stories. It was a joy to discover the little threads that drew each character toward the next, and all the little hints Bernard has left throughout the book that make the reveal near the end of the story so satisfying.
This is not the kind of book a person should power-read. The narrative rewards a slow and careful reader. There are a lot of details that would be really easy to miss and, while not integral to understanding the plot, certainly provide the backbone of the setup by demonstrating that the author truly earned the twist at the end of the novel.
On one hand, Replika will feel familiar to most cyberpunk book fans. There are elements of this world that you will have seen before: a dystopian world assuaged by escape into virtual reality, a benevolent AI designed to protect humanity from itself. But what elevates these familiar themes to something new and exciting was the depth of each individual character’s story.
I loved all of these characters, and Bernard succeeds in giving each one a distinct voice, an empathetic motivation (even if some of them are a bit mad), and conflicting goals that drive the plot forward with steady pressure.
Although Replika is not a shoot-em-up action thriller, its pacing is very steady and I found myself waiting eagerly for each reveal as the characters explored their worlds. I wouldn’t say it’s a slow read. It’s the definitive “slow-burn,” where the heat and the pressure increase page by page until in the end you don’t realize you’ve been well and thoroughly cooked!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ From me!
I’m giving this one 🦾🦾🦾🦾 on the accessible cyberpunk scale (🦾 being a quick and easy fun read, and 🦾🦾🦾🦾🦾 being complex, heady, philosophical cyberpunk) because, although it’s not a challenging read, there are layers to this novel that only careful readers are going to find and the thematic questions Bernard is playing with are quite introspective.
It could be a great introduction to cyberpunk for readers who are already well versed in literary sci-fi.
PS: this is book 1 in a trilogy!