A Chip in His Shoulder by LA Witt is a really good and often used idea in science fiction. There are a few fresh twists and a brief attempt at tension but overall the story is interesting and fun to read. Where the novella stumbles though is on the pacing and content. There is too much that is skipped over and summarized leaving a very rushed and choppy feel. The world building is decent for the length but sadly leaves out so much. I wish this had been a fully fleshed out novel with solid world building and complete characters; instead it reads like the first book of a series and not a satisfying stand-alone.
ACiHS has a very basic and familiar plot. It starts with vampire and assassin Liam heading to kill his mark and old lover Daniel. Daniel is the son of a very wealthy cybertronics scion as Liam once was. Liam was disowned and disinherited when his affair with human Daniel was revealed and since then he’s done whatever he had to do to survive. Despite their rocky past or because of it, when Liam shows up to kill Daniel they’re both in for a few surprised that just may change their minds about many things.
Set in a futuristic world, potentially post-apocalyptic, with an urban feel with advanced electronics, high tech assassins, and vampires, this story really hits all the things I adore in a story. I mean I don’t think I could have tailor made a story more in tune with the very elements I devour in the science fiction/fantasy genre. Many of the elements and themes used are pretty universal, though it doesn’t detract from the story. For example the extreme poverty versus extreme wealth concept; the rich sons battling their greedy fathers for the good of common man; the assassin with a heart of gold just trying to help the poor; old lovers torn apart due to immaturity and youth finding a common cause to fight against. I could go on but suffice it to say the novella is chock full of common themes and familiar concepts.
Having said that I liked the plot anyway. It’s not original but it works for me because I happen to like those themes. Unfortunately the story is simply too rushed and really short changed any potential these themes have. There are too many of them thrown into too short of a story. None of these ideas are well fleshed out and constructed. The actual futuristic world isn’t explained very well; is it post-apocalyptic or merely futuristic? How did the world come to be this way and incorporate mods and vampires at once? There are so many unanswered questions and omitted details that it’s very frustrating. These ideas are simply introduced, stately plainly without much detailed explanation or development, and then the story and characters move onto the next theme. There is no depth to any of it or any of the characters unfortunately. There is so much action and time spent explaining the background of the couple and world that the depth and development of each element is sacrificed.
For example, rather than letting the world building create a solid background to the story, these details are largely told through Liam’s internal monologues. The story is told to the reader much more than it’s shown and in a genre that I love, this is especially disappointing. Likewise the plot is simply too full and rushed to be complete and satisfying. There are too many concepts and ideas thrown in without elaboration while the characters feel very thin at best. They have such potential and clearly a dramatic and tension filled past but none of that raw emotion and edgy turmoil comes through. It feels watered down and incomplete.
This feels like a great idea that just didn’t deliver in execution. It has all the elements that I like and honestly crave in an excellent book but it doesn’t offer the sense of satisfaction and completion to work. I can’t help but think what this book would have been like in another author’s hands and I get chills thinking how good it could have been. Overall it’s decent but it’s definitely lost potential and doesn’t really work as much as it should.