Matrix meets Big Brother who meets Mad Max in this story, or at least that’s the feeling. Cool!
The Low End Kid by Robert Krone released in December in the Cyberpunk, Dystopian fiction.
Near the end of the 21st century, the cyber-entity known as the Collective controls what is left of the world after a long devastating war, using reality-altering drugs to bend countless minds to its singular will. Your compliance will earn you reward. But if you resist, you will become an outcast condemned to social quarantine, or worse — deletion by the barrel of a bounty hunter’s gun.
Nineteen-year-old Max Zander lives in the old boroughs of New York City, surviving on his wits and the willingness to do whatever it takes to score credits. As a hunter, Max thinks he has everything figured out, that is until he encounters Zoe Chacon, an aging terrorist with ties to the parents he never knew. Their unlikely friendship will finally open Max’s eyes to the truth, causing the Collective to order his deletion. With his life on the line, he must choose between saving himself or protecting Zoe at all costs.
Inspired by the works of Philip K. Dick, The Low End Kid is a high-stakes acid trip through a strange future landscape, where bad men and dangerous women reign supreme, and reality is more than just a matter of perspective.
ROBERT KRONE is a retired public servant, freelance writer, photographer, artist, and now — novelist.
Robert writes mostly science fiction because of his lifelong love of the genre, which began with his first viewing of The Empire Strikes Back when he was a kid. He has been a repo man, a fish seller, a bounty hunter, and a firefighter.
When not creating new stories, he lives in Nevada with his wife. Together, they spend their free time exploring nature.
Is this book a love story?
On the surface, The Low End Kid is not your typical love story. Instead, it’s promoted as a cyberpunk thriller with the usual sci-fi trappings of flying cars and high-tech gadgets galore. But can it be labeled a love story too?
Early in the first chapter, we are told by Max Zander (the protagonist), all he wants is the golden ticket to a better life. Floating above his impoverished home is a shiny city where society’s elite thrive in opulence. His goal is simple; get the credits needed to buy his way upstairs to that paradise. There’s one problem, though; he’s a Lo-ender. The lowest of the low. No good ever happens to his kind. If he wants an impossible break, he must do whatever it takes to achieve it. As the narrative guide, Max assures us that he’s more than willing to do anything.
Yet as we explore this strange future story, it becomes abundantly clear Max is an unreliable narrator. He talks a good game, but as a player, he can’t back up his bravado. He tries to earn credits by working as a bounty hunter arresting (or as they say in 2099, quarantining) people considered a threat to the city’s social order. The target for opportunity? Zoe Chacon, an aging terrorist with a bounty large enough to establish him as a Hi-riser for life. So, what’s the problem? After capturing this supposedly dangerous woman, his conscience starts eating away at him. To make matters worse, the local crime boss has invoked his territorial rights and confiscated the bounty, leaving Max penniless once more as he deals with the moral consequences of his selfish actions.
To add salt to his wounded ego, Chacon’s memory haunts the kid. He knows he screwed up, however making things right is impossible . . . or so the situation seems. Just when he needs a miracle, in walks Adi Nerees, a Hi-riser with the solution to his problem. She offers Max a job: free Chacon from quarantine. It’s a deal too good to pass up, in spite of the red flags warning him to run away. Left with no other choice, he accepts the offer. There is just something about this girl that he can’t say no to.
Adi may look like the stereotypical femme fatale, but appearances are deceptive. Regardless of her outwardly confident façade, this privileged girl is nothing of the sort. As the cynical Max slowly reveals his true nature, that of a good-hearted man, Adi learns to drop her defenses and trust someone for the first time in her short, tortured existence. Max ponders to himself upon seeing her exposed vulnerability.
“I have trouble holding in my reaction. The evidence of the abuse she endured is beyond my comprehension. If these self-inflicted marks mean anything, such mistreatment might be beyond even her own ability to survive. I’m already hugging her tight, but I squeeze more as if that can lessen her sadness. If I could absorb her into me and protect her with my soul, I would. But to my regret, that is impossible.”
With one unlikely relationship bringing two completely different individuals together, another love story (of sorts) plays out when Max forms a bond with the very woman he arrested. From the moment he encountered Zoe Chacon on the battlefield, he sensed a connection between them. Who is she? Her reluctance to fight him is a mystery demanding an explanation. Locked away in her heart is the key to why she quickly forgives him. But he doesn’t want absolution. For him, the truth became a weapon used to destroy her and everything she cares for. She is not to blame. He thinks to himself, “if I had let her go that night, then everyone would be better off, especially her. My greed is the cause of all this evil. She should not be the one to bear regret, for its mine and mine alone.”
A man (a kid honestly) in diametrically different relationships with two women who each possess answers to questions he has posed all his life, learns to grow and embrace who and what he is in this world. And they, in turn, find in him pieces to their souls they believed were missing.
Hopefully, by the last page, the unassuming love stories running throughout The Low End Kid subvert your previous expectations and, in reconsideration, transform your entire journey with the three main characters into a richer narrative tapestry, one that has been hiding beneath the sci-fi surface all along.