(censoring the title because no one needs that popping on their dashboards)
This is an interesting read. Not at all what I was expecting. When I first read the summary and skimmed other reviewers' responses, I was thought it was going to be a mess.
What I was expecting:
Hardcore BDSM with a murder mystery set in a futuristic world interjected into the story. In between extended sex scenes, of course.
What I got:
What I had been expecting, but with the exception of decent writing, interesting characterization, and an interesting pseudo-futuristic story.
So basically it's the opposite of my expectations.
The basic set up is this: there's a central multiple-body murder mystery plot, a few explicit sex scenes interjected into the story to keep things interesting, and the unfolding of a corporation-centered world built upon sabotage. If explicit sex scenes aren't your thing but you're still interested in the book's set-up, then you're in luck (maybe?). They are easy to skip in that they are sectioned off by chapters. You can skip a whole scene by skipping a chapter, but I would at least skim it because it contains some characterization that's important to the plot. And also because it's a scene between the two main characters and their budding~ semi-hostile relationship, which play into the story later on.
The world of New London is a futuristic, post-apocalyptic meltdown kind of world where familiar world orders are no longer in place. New London is overseen by The Administration, a sociopathic draconian government body, that oversees a corporate-run society. We're introduced to Val Toreth, a high-ranking government personnel (investigator and interrogator by trade), who has been assigned to a high-profile corporate case to determine whether a mysterious death is murder or suicide. Keir Warrick is head of said corporation which is responsible for creating simulation technology, which might be the cause of the murder. Perhaps the sim technology is killing its users? A series of mysterious deaths and intrigues follow as the investigation unravels.
It's sad and unfortunate that this book, well-written and plotted as it is, isn't more popular and that Fifty Shades of Grey is. Well, we all know why that is. The content isn't so much the problem here since both series feature BDSM, or in Fifty Shades' case, the author's demented version of BDSM. While Fifty Shades is about to be a movie, not many have even heard of The Administration. That is sad, really.
* * * mild spoilers below * * *
Initially, I gave this book a higher rating because the set-up--futuristic world and technology, corporate politics, menacing dystopian atmosphere--and murder mystery intrigued me. I didn't think that a book such as this would have much in terms of plotting, characterization, or world-building aside from sex and the main characters' attraction to each other. But I was wrong. There's actually a good story here, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
Although I'm impressed by the story overall, looking back, there were a couple of things I had a difficult time grasping. The sim technology, for one, and the inner workings of big corporation vs. budding corporations, such as SimTech, is another. I think the main problem was I couldn't imagine how such a small corp with such integrity can survive in a cut-throat world. Maybe if The Administration and its personnel outside of Toreth's office are featured more in the story, then I'd have more of an idea how the government systems actually worked.
Toreth and his insatiable sexual appetite are interesting, but I can't imagine how someone like him, who gives in to every sexual urge, makes it through government ranks, all the while joyfully having sex indiscriminately with absolutely no mind for discretion. And at the division of Investigation & Interrogation (I & I), of all places. Does he even know where he works? He's a walking series of liabilities, and it's a mystery that the Administration hasn't done away with him yet. Keir Warrick as a savvy, smart, but neurotic power player, I understand. But Toreth? Still can't get my mind around this character. He's the moodiest sociopathic interrogator I've ever encountered.
There is also the sim technology itself. I don't know much about IT or virtual realities or simulation technology, and until I can find someone who knows these things and have read this book, I can't say for certain how much of the SIM I believe and how much of it is clever authorial sass. However, I must compliment Manna Francis on her writing. It seems she has quite a good grasp on research methods and proceedings, government regulations, and government bullshit. Either she's done a lot of research for this book or she herself used to be a researcher for private sectors and/or a government personnel at some point in her life.
The ending of the investigation is left somewhat open-ended, and the ending of this installment of the series sets up an interesting premise for the following book(s). I don't really care for how things are wrapped, with a few loose ends hanging out, but I suppose that's what makes readers pick up the next book. I think I will read on, probably when I figure out the exact order of the book or short story.