Extended Review Last Hope for Hire by Matthew Wilcox
Allen’s son Ben, who suffers from epilepsy, is the emotional core of the story that is surprisingly moving and differentiates Last Hope for Hire from other techno thrillers.
The author requested I review of this novel, and delivered the book to me via NetGalley.
Last Hope for Hire is in many ways a straightforward sci-fi techno-thriller. All in all, the action comes fast and furious. Have no fear that there is so much nonstop action you'll feel worn out reading the novel. The author has good sci-fi action scenes intermixed with plenty of gentler scenes that carry an emotional punch instead of a knee to the groin.
Most of the characters will be readily recognizable to anyone who has watched or read this type of story. The villains are solidly villainess without being caricatures. I personally enjoyed the sadistic security chief, who pleasantly reminds me of several other unsavory types from film and novels. The good guys have a decent mix of personalities too. The protagonist Allen is a grizzled merc coming out of his semi-retirement as a hired gun for one last score. We have his one-time partner, who is now a wheelchair-bound military hardware wizard. There's the partner's daughter, an up-and-coming if somewhat reluctant and wet around the ears merc. Rounding out the team are Allen's coder wife and a network/hacker guru who goes by the handle MeatTank. The group is a solid set of characters for this type of book. At times, their banter made me smile. I give the reluctant up-and-coming merc and MeatTank solid marks as my favorites of the bunch.
The world-building to construct this near-future dystopia is well done. You won't find as much world-building as you might in a red-blooded science fiction novel, but I found the world logically constructed and jived with the characters' motivations. For example, health insurance is hard to come by, and the protagonist Allen is desperate for health insurance or anything really to provide medical care for his epileptic son.
Allen's son Ben, who suffers from epilepsy, is the emotional core of the story that is surprisingly moving and differentiates Last Hope for Hire from other techno-thrillers. It's obvious the author has real-world experience with the disease. His knowledge of epilepsy's physical and emotional toll on a family is used to great effect. As a parent, I couldn't help having empathy for the plight of Allen and his family. The dénouement is short and sweet, nicely tugging on the reader's heartstrings without being melodramatic.