Title: Data Runner
Author: Sam A. Patel
Series: Data Runner #1
Genre: YA Science fiction
Received for review from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads)
In the not-too-distant future, in what was once the old City of New York, megacorporations have taken over everything. Now even the internet is owned, and the only way to transmit sensitive information is by a network of highly skilled couriers called “data runners” who run it over the sneakernet. It is a dangerous gig in a dirty world, but Jack Nill doesn’t have much choice in the matter. A brilliant young math whiz and champion of parkour, Jack must become one of these data runners in order to get his father out of a major gambling debt. But when a mysterious stranger loads Jack’s chip with a cryptic cargo that everybody wants, he soon becomes the key figure in a conspiracy that could affect the entire North American Alliance. Now it’s all up to Jack. With the help of his best friend, Dexter, and a girl who runs under the name Red Tail, Jack will have to use all his skills to outrun the retrievers and uncover the truth before they catch him and clip him for good.
There was a lot I was ready to love about this – cool sci-fi concept, check, computers and hackers, check, youngster taking down super mega corporation, check. And in a lot of ways these elements were all portrayed with a degree of realism that made Data Runner not any old YA Sci-Fi Lite. It had big ideas, and a level of technical accuracy that made it challenging and realistic.
But that, unfortunately, also came with a level of technobabble that at times made it close to unreadable.
I have a fairly high tolerance for technobabble. I’m relatively intelligent, a very forgiving reader, and I have a basic understanding of a broad range of science-y topics that gives me a way in to a lot of science fiction. But this started to lose me pretty quickly.
And it was a shame, because there was a great story here. I loved all the subterfuge and intrigue of the different corporations, and the idea of the ‘sneakernet’ – a network of data transfer powered by people running the data from one side of the city to another – was a fantastic concept. I liked the characters, particularly Jack – our protagonist – who was equal parts cocky and insecure in a very realistic teenage boy kind of way. But when you have to stop to reread a passage three times before you can start to get an inkling about what’s going on, it really throws you out of the story.
After a while, I did start to get the hang of it, and found the second half of the book much easier going than the first as I began to wrap my head around some of the language. I have always thought that if a book needs a glossary, then the writer isn’t working hard enough to introduce terms and ideas in a way that’s accessible to the reader. At times when reading this book, I really wanted a glossary.
Perhaps technology is starting to lose me. Perhaps I’m just getting too old!