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Brigham Plaza by Daniel Verastiqui
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"Brigham Plaza is like a campy Neuromancer, a bit more pulp and a bit less serious." - Jared Harper

"The universe of Brigham Plaza is completely probable and the scars of its history are seen in the society created. I could live there and know the rules, as well as know the loopholes I could exploit." - Heidi Click

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Most hackers think they’re going to live forever; Johnny San Vito isn’t so optimistic. While snooping around a protected construct in Vinestead International’s virtual reality network, he starts to get the feeling this might be his final visit to cyberspace. To preserve his data and leave a trail for his friends, he manages to prime a Dead Man’s Loop just in time for the network to come crashing down around him.

When the data reaches celebrity hacker Danny “Guns” Montreal and cipher den suit Megan “Tanzy” Riley, it points them to Johnny’s final resting place in virtuality—a seemingly unremarkable strip mall called Brigham Plaza. Getting there will be difficult, and leaving with their lives will be tougher still, but what they find there will rewrite history… and alter the course of humanity’s future.

In the aftermath of Perion City, long after the fall of the Net, the pivotal battle in the war against Vinestead will be fought and decided on the cracked sidewalks of Brigham Plaza.

Science Fiction | 351 pages | ISBN: 979-8618450928 | 2020-09-01

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Year(s) Covered: 2019
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user@vnet:~/books/brigham-plaza$ mysql -u ZERO_COOL -pHACKTHEPLANET -e "select * from reviews where slug = 'brigham-plaza' order by RAND() limit 5

********** 1. row ***********
      name: Nelson Kerr
     stamp: 2020-09-13
     stars: 5
     title: Sci-fi/Cyberpunk done right . . .
   content: If you liked William Gibson's "Neuromancer" or Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One", you'll find a new rush in Verastiqui's "Brigham Plaza".

This is the latest book in Verastiqui's Vinestead Universe and it doesn't disappoint. If you've not read the earlier books you'll still thoroughly enjoy the read, but those who know the characters are in for a real treat; many of your favorites have returned to reprise their roles in this rollicking tale. Verastiqui sets the stage well in the first few pages of the book and ramps up the intensity all the way through, providing a well-paced story full of nuance and flavor for any reader, whether cyberpunk aficionado or sci-fi mystery fan (ala Asimov's Robot Series). Much in the same way that "Ready Player One" presented a new take on classic cyberpunk, Verastiqui has the ability to make accessible to the reader a fully formed future with all the trappings that make the genre so compelling. With the rise and mainstreaming of VR technology in our own society, Verastiqui presents a compelling future with well thought out social and technological advancements. These serve as the underpinnings to a much more universal story of murder and revenge.

While this book definitely leaves open the possibility for a sequel that could follow some of the partially resolved storylines, I see that more as a tease of what's to come from this rising star and not something that in any way detracts from the resolution of the main story being presented here. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to continuing to explore Verastiqui's world, which is becoming more and more believable as the pace of modern technology begins to make strides towards making these stories more fiction and less science fiction.

I can't wait to see where he'll take us next . . .

********** 2. row ***********
      name: Carl Gillingham
     stamp: 2020-08-30
     stars: 4
     title: It’s time to return to Daniel’s world
   content: I was lucky enough to receive a free, advance copy of this book from the author.

Daniel writes within the genres of sci-fi, cyberpunk, and dystopian fiction so, on one hand, this is my home. As a lover of both Blade Runners, Mad Max, The Matrix, I have at least one foot planted firmly in this camp. But look on my bookshelves, and you’ll see nothing like that. I watch sci-fi - I watch a lot of it - but I don’t really read it. And, although he didn’t change my view that traditional sci-fi is not necessarily for me, Daniel most certainly writes a rollicking ride through our inevitable disastrous future.

This might seem counter-intuitive in a book review, but I have no interest in reviews that spend half their length just trotting out the basic plot points of the story. There’s a description on the back of the book. Read that. There are synthetic humans, hackers, electronic drugs, advanced weaponry, conspiracies, mysteries, and death. There’s action, nudity, and the chapters are pleasantly short. I always appreciate that in a book.

This is sci-fi the William Gibson way. Daniel has absorbed the rules and expectations of the genre expertly and works with them apparently effortlessly on his own pages. He is, I think, a very Gibsonian writer. Brigham Plaza is not his first novel in the world he created and it shows; as I read, I felt like he was giving me exactly what was in his head. He can see every detail, every object, surface, gesture, and facial expression. He has that all very definitely in his imagination (or sketched like a crazy person on a series of Post-Its, who knows?) and his book feels in parts like a VR adventure in that he gives this fully formed world to us.

Brigham Plaza is a stand-alone story - no knowledge of what comes before is necessary, and I think for the most part that’s true. If I did at times feel a little lost with who is who and why they’re doing what they’re doing, this is no doubt at least partly due to my oncoming decrepitude. For future releases, maybe a "Previously on…" section at the start would help us slow-on-the-uptake latecomers. Or character bios. Something for us hard-of-remembering readers.

For me, the pleasure of Brigham Plaza is in finding the through-line of adventure that I caught hold of and allowed it to drag me along. I saw my version of the story in my head - I started to imagine the screenplay. It was quite a ride. Like all good sci-fi stories, there’s at heart here an adventure - with just enough noir mystery to keep us wanting to know more; just enough tech-supported almost-superhero action to speed the heart up; and characters with lives, ideas, and thoughts of their own to keep us involved. And if you want world-building, tech-talk, and naked people kissing, they’re all there too.

Daniel obviously loves the world he’s made for us, and he works damn hard to show it to us. Spending a few hours in his head is most definitely worth it. I’m hoping he’s willing to work with a partner on the screenplay. I think we could really have something here…

********** 3. row ***********
      name: Heidi Click
     stamp: 2020-08-30
     stars: 3
     title: A Beautiful Landscape. Well Made Characters. But I struggled a bit in engaging with the plot.
   content: I received Brigham Plaza to read in advance of its release from Mr. Verastiqui. I was excited to be able to review a book again. It’s been two years since I’ve read a new novel from cover to cover and longer still since I’ve reviewed a piece of fiction comprehensively. So, I was thrilled and also intimidated to write a review for a new story. So let’s begin.

The characters are well built, as I was able to both like and dislike certain ones and appreciate their construction and their use. They are fully fleshed out, from their desires and conflicts to their histories and surprise connections to each other and to the events of the world. Some character arcs are closed well, while others could have used more work or more “screen time.” This could have prevented the suddenness for some action choices and ease the whiplash of the arc’s climax. I appreciated, however, that each character, whether major or trivial, had agency. But, I found myself enjoying the characters who weren’t listed on the cover or had Point of View Chapters more than those who were supposed to lead the plot. One of the main characters eventually warmed up to me by the end, but it took a little too long for that to happen in order for me to say, “Yeah…that’s my favorite character!!”

What was done exceedingly well was the world building. The universe of Brigham Plaza is completely probable and the scars of its history are seen in the society created. I could live there and know the rules, as well as know the loopholes I could exploit. The visual language is very comprehensible and shows the author’s work in that regard. I can picture Danny’s cabin and Lincoln’s tower, as well as the various interfaces into the virtual world. The fight sequences are brutal but visual and I can hear every punch and gunshot. This is the best part of the novel, it’s a beautifully constructed world.

The problem I had is with plot cohesion. Perhaps it’s because there really isn’t a protagonist or primary antagonist. I think this is why I had such a hard time connecting to any of the main characters, until finally landing on one. The plot for three of the four threads suddenly veered away from what was introduced as the main conflict and mystery to solve.

Because of this, I struggled with the pacing and felt that the first third of the book was slow. Three quarters of the plot had to make up time in setting up and chasing another conflict. It disconnected me from the majority of the cast. And I really enjoyed entering the world with these characters, but I wish their journey was bonded and that they had an actual face to fight because I really wanted to see something epic in this beautiful landscape.

By no means is this the worst book I’ve read since moving to my current city fifteen years ago. Perhaps it’s the format and the use of Point of View Chapters and perhaps it’s the lack of a protagonist, which I’m very used to having in the world of manga, or having a face for the evil they were fighting. This world was beautiful and its characters were real. If I’m completely honest, this isn’t my favorite book that I’ve read in recent years, but I do recommend you pick up a copy and read for yourself.

********** 4. row ***********
      name: Megan Allen
     stamp: 2020-09-01
     stars: 3
     title: Ready to plug in!
   content: Just finished this book and initial impressions follow:

It's hackers vs the man. Some throw back to early internet days. Fun book, lots of action and some pretty cool ideas about the possibilities of humans, machines, and virtual reality.

Things I liked: biochips and the ability to regulate our brain and body responses, the blurring of lines between reality & virtual reality , man & machine, sane & insane- what is real, anyway?, visiting characters from previous books, seeing them interact with each other, and getting a deeper look into some of them, overall a good read, I'd recommend.

Things I liked less: I'd like to know more of how the world is functioning- the lines between a dystopian world and fully functioning, technology advanced world are kinda thin and could use some defining, the ending was felt more like set up for another book (which is cool, but), - I have questions and am unsure if I'm feeling a lack of completion for this story or just a general left-hanging, waiting for more story feeling. I feel like the characters were finally doing some good growth/evolving at the end and I really hope the next book picks up there and shows us the fruit of all that growth.

Definitely you can see how much the author has evolved over the course of his several books- I'm looking forward to the next installment.

I received a free, advanced copy of this book. But I also bought on kindle for the future reread! Print copy text was smaller than I would have liked.

********** 5. row ***********
      name: Jay Roy
     stamp: 2020-09-01
     stars: 5
   content: A very fitting middle chapter of the Vinestead Anthology

I thought Brigham was Verastiqui's best paced book thus far and I felt that the action from chapter-to-chapter made me want to ignore the rest of the world and keep reading. Story progression held plenty of turns to keep the reader guessing, especially when combined with the knowledge from the rest of the series.

As a fan of the genre, there was enough tech to keep my cyber-nerd satiated while leaving enough room for the characters.

Brigham rounds out the series very nicely, tying up some loose ends while providing an origin for others. I look forward to what is next for Verastiqui.

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