Shomi, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-505-52724-0
Sci-fi Romance, 2007
When I first heard of Shomi, I had no idea what it is other than it was supposed to attract younger readers by being kick-ass and bad-ass. I thought of the Silhouette Bombshell line, shuddered, and hoped for the best for Shomi. If Liz Maverick’s Wired is any indication, however, Shomi is nothing the romance genre has ever seen before. This isn’t merely urban fantasy, baby, this is cyberpunk. The best way to describe this one is that it is chick-lit combined with some The Butterly Effect-like elements. The only downside is that if you are looking for a conventional romance story, this one may not fit the bill since the romance isn’t the main priority in this story.
Now, how do I describe the plot? “Wired” refers to the act of time-travelers from the future, called wire-crossers, who can go back in time and catalyze events that can alter things drastically. For example, you have a ten-year old daughter. A wire-crosser can easily change things so that you will wake up next morning to find yourself with a ten-year old son instead. You will not notice that anything is amiss, however, because your memory of your entire past has been altered by the wire-crosser as well.
Some people, called Majors, however, have the ability to detect (but not always identify) the results of the actions of a wire-crosser. Our heroine L Roxanne Zaborovsky is one such person. Given that she has no idea what wire-crossers are, she therefore has no idea what is going on when she finds herself the pawn in the games between two wire-crossers, Mason Merrick and Leonardo Kaysar. Roxanne knows Mason – he used to date her ex-room mate and slept over in the apartment – but she has no idea whether Mason is the good guy or the bad guy here. Also, because she is a Major, her memory is filled with blank spots that resulted from the actions of the wire-crossers. When this story begins, she is on her way to a 7-11 in the middle of the night when… woosh, the wire is crossed and she later realizes that she can’t remember why she was making her way to the 7-11.
Am I making sense here? Perhaps you ought to read the book yourself if I am explaining things poorly. Needless to say, Wired is a very conceptual novel, especially when the reality in this book (along with aspects of Roxanne’s life) changes and re-changes constantly depending on whether Mason or Leonardo is the one having the upper hand in that moment. It is easily the most interesting paranormal romance I’ve read in a while due to the fact that it aspires to break some new grounds and introduce some cyberpunk elements that are not dumbed down for romance readers. I like every minute because it is something new, something interesting. A part of me is always going, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” because I love it when an author doesn’t dumb down the fantasy aspect of her story in fear that romance readers may not understand what is going on.
However, as much as I have a great time, I realize at the end of the day that I don’t love it to pieces. The main reason is that I never really warm up to the main characters. Mason often irritates me when he will go into a long speech in order to explain things to Roxanne yet at the same time he is actually making things harder to understand. He also goes round and round in circles, sometimes even deliberately keeping Roxanne in the dark for no good reason. He often comes off like a plot contrivance on the author’s part to preserve the mystery of her story than a character in his own right.
I also have some issues with Roxanne. I don’t understand, for example, why she is so morose and angst-ridden. She doesn’t have a particularly terrible life but she is all about the angst like a typical Livejournal blog personified. In a way, I suppose maybe this is a way to reel in those Livejournal bloggers onto the Shomi via the whole identifying-with-Roxanne thing, but surely there is a better way to go about doing this? Also, Roxanne seems to exhibit a curious lack of interest in the phenomenon of wire-crossing once she’s clued in on it by Mason. In fact, I’d expect her to be more… I don’t know, scared or intrigued. Or even getting concerned about the state of the world as the result of the actions of these wire-crossers. Instead, she gets jealous – often violently so – because Mason used to sleep with her ex-room mate. There is a small problem with the heroine’s sense of priorities here.
Still, Wired remains a most interesting story that attempts to break new grounds and mostly succeeds. If you have a fondness for cyberpunk fantasy stories, go get this, if only to discover for yourself how well you will take to what Ms Maverick is trying to do here. In a sea of generic whiny vampires or horny aliens looking for human mates, this one is like high art in the making. I can’t wait for more. Show me the Shomi! I’m all for the revolution, sign me up for it.