Into The Shadows: A Review of Shadowrun
Secrets of Power
If you like science fiction, fantasy, or both, then Shadowrun is just for you. An eclectic mix of cyberpunk and fairytale, the story follows bands of shadowrunners – magical and cybernetic outlaws, if you will – living on the fringes of society and braving the darkest places in some of the world’s toughest cities in a grim future filled with all the creatures of myth, including powerful wizards, fire-breathing dragons, brutal orks, sly elves, and nimble dwarves. Within this wondrous magical realm also lies the technosavvy infrastructure of world dominating megacorporations and their massive towers that cast deep shadows in which the shadowrunners dwell, complete with the artificial computer generated world known as the Matrix where hackers, known as deckers, brave the intricate, and deadly, simulated environment.
In the Secrets of Power trilogy, the first three books of the Shadowrun series, we enter the life of Samuel Verner, an aspiring employee of the Renraku Arcology in Seattle, Washington and unwitting hero. He starts out living the life of his dreams until all that he knows is turned upside down in a freak encounter with a group of shadowrunners aimed at bringing down evil megacorps like Renraku. At first he is forced into their leagues, but soon discovers that a different world, the real world, exists within the shadows of the megacorps and realizes his own latent abilities to control magic that sets him on a path to fulfill his destiny as a wizard. His journey takes him from one corner of the Earth to the other as he reluctantly accepts his role in both the magical and mundane worlds, meeting new and old friends alike as well as some of the most unforgiving of enemies. Lies and treachery meet young Sam behind every dank city back alley and open countryside that determine to keep him from achieving his goals.
And the power struggle continues...
As far as the three books in this trilogy go, Never Deal With A Dragon, Choose Your Enemies Carefully, and Find Your Own Truth, I like them all equally. They were all fast-paced adventures filled with non-stop action and with good characterizations and plot development. Despite each book featuring an adventure that contrasted greatly from one another, continuity is not sacrificed and the characters react well to the environments and situations they are placed in. Of the story structure, I’d have to say that the only thing I didn’t particularly care for were the sudden scene changes, which most of the time happened with little or no explanation. The main shadowrunner characters were solid, hardened veterans and evolved with the usual bumps and bruises expected from people in a world such as theirs. They especially behaved much like a family with the common flaws and conflicting opinions with, at times, some not-so-unflinching loyalty. The villains, though selfish and lacking compunction, expressed similar flaws and were relieved of the usual clichés and stereotypes attributed to their roles. The locations were well detailed that painted an excellent picture of familiar sites and cities with this unique interpretation of the future. The right amount of backstory was included throughout the books as to not make them too wordy and congested while keeping the plot coherent and exciting.
While the ending wasn’t exactly the most climactic I’ve ever read, it did tie up all the loose ends and resolve the characters’ stories begun in the first book while providing open endings for possible reprisals in succeeding books. If I had to rate this trilogy out of five stars, I’d give it a four, and much praise to the author Robert N. Charrette for such keen insight into a fantastical future that included my own home city of Seattle. If magic and all the creatures of myth were to suddenly return to the Earth, I would expect it to be just like Shadowrun. Though I have never read any of Charrette’s other books, I am certainly going to start now. Of this ongoing series, he has written two others entitled Never Trust An Elf and Just Compensation, both of which I have yet to read. If they are anything like the previous books, those are two I’m definitely going to be picking up. Based off of his work so far, I would like to see Charrette return to helm another adventure. If you are a fan of the Shadowrun roleplaying and video games, these novels should be included in your collection. Even though most of the books in the series are stand-alone stories and are as good as any place to jump in and start reading, I recommend picking up the Secrets of Power trilogy, not just because they are the first of the Shadowrun tales, but because they are worth it.