Ren Warom's Virology was published by Titan Books in June 2017.

Information about Ren Warom:

Ren Warom lives in the West Midlands with her three children, innumerable cats, a very friendly corn snake, and far, far too many books. She haunts Twitter as @RenWarom, and can be found on her YouTube channel talking about mental health issues and, of course, books.

Information about Virology:

It’s been four weeks since Shock Pao broke open the virtual world of the Slip. With the stolen bio-ware Emblem in his head, he controls all the world’s systems, and so the shadiest characters in Foon Gung are desperate to track him down. Shock and the Hornets are running out of places to hide.

Meanwhile, the Patient Zeros’ cryptic illness is worsening. The source of the disease points to the distant hubs; Earth’s former cities snatched up and sent into orbit. With their pursuers nearing and time running out to find the cure, the Hornets flee skywards, from the insane underworld of Tokyo to the throngs of New York, all the time moving towards an evil that makes Hive Queens look like garden insects.


Let me start this review by saying: Wow, what an outstanding and ambitious novel! I'm so glad I could read Ren Warom's Virology, because it's stunningly good and perfectly executed. It's the kind of sequel all sequels should be, because it's better and bolder than its predecessor. Everything has evolved since Escapology and feels much grander in scope. It was wonderful to read again about the familiar characters and their escapades, because this time the stakes are higher and the story pulses with unstoppable energy.

Ren Warom's previous novel, Escapology, was one of last year's best and most thrilling science fiction novels. It was such a powerful and original vision of cyberpunk fiction that it astonished me with its weirdness and grittiness. It raised the bar for cyberpunk fiction quite high, because it made all the other cyberpunk novels seem stale in comparison. I'm glad to say that Virology continues to raise the bar even higher. It offers a spellbounding and immersive reading experience to readers who expect the best from their science fiction stories. Once you start reading this novel, you'll find yourself turning pages late into the night to find out what happens next.

Virology is everything that Escapology is and then some. In Escapology, the author merely scratched the surface, because now she delves deeper into her world and introduces new places. Escapology was a rewarding reading experience, because it introduced the world and the characters, but now things are clearer and more precise, not to mention more amazing. The author revs up the tension and brings more energy into her narrative by adding more gears to the story and taking the characters to new environments.

I feel compelled to say that Virology is the best cyberpunk novel I've ever read, because it's head and shoulders above other novels of its kind due to its addictive story, weirdness and intriguing characters. It's without any kind of doubt the ultimate reading experience in cyberpunk fiction, because - besides having stunning technological wonders, terrors, action, weirdness, surprises and plot twists - it has a strongly beating heart at the core of the story with a rhythm of its own that compels readers to devour it quickly.

In this novel, Zenada is looking for someone to unlock her prison and set her free. She dreams of richly deserved punishment... Shock Pao is on the run and hides, because he's a fugitive. He is now not entirely human anymore, but a mishmash of aching scars, bio-ware and brokenness. With the stolen bio-ware Emblem he can control all the world’s systems, which has led him to being tracked down by the shadiest characters in Foon Gung... Amiga is hunting Grey Cartel members and takes one of them alive for interrogation... On Shanghai Hub, Evelyn Tsai knows that landscape of power has changed and power is up for grabs. She has captured Marcus and Tahira to make them sign up in partnership with Tsai Holdings... On the edge of the Chinese District, there's a makeshift hospital which is a place to try and find a way to heal the Zeros of the Gung while the virad sickness continues to mutate and spread...

This is the beginning of a story in which the happenings take place in Foon Gung and the metropolitan hubs surrounding the world. This is all I'll reveal about the story. Trust me when I say that you don't want to know more about the story in advance, because it is so full of details and happenings that it wouldn't be fair to mention all of them.

The characterisation is wonderfully swift and engaging. The characteristics of each character are fluently introduced to readers as they face problems and try to deal with them. With a few words, the author creates believable visions of characters whose lives are difficult and who do their best to stay alive under difficult and challenging circumstances.

Shock Pao and Amiga are perhaps the best characters I've ever encountered in this kind of fiction, because they're intriguingly vivid characters. Many things have changed for both of them and also to their allies, because Shock broke open the virtual world of the Slip and they have to find a way to save themselves. Their lives are anything but easy, but they do the best they can to survive. The minor characters and villains are also intriguingly vivid.

The worldbuilding is exceptionally good, because the author expands the vibrant world she introduced in Escapology. I love the author's stark vision of a post-apocalyptic world, because she paints a picture of a world forever changed. She writes excellently about Foon Gung and takes her readers on a journey into the orbiting stations - Hubs - that contain the world's major cities. By writing about the Hubs and the cities inside them, the author wonderfully deepens and expands her future world.

I like Ren Warom's writing style very much, because I find it satisfyingly fast-paced. She clearly has a talent for storytelling, because she keeps things in motion and effortlessly maintains tension. With this novel, she establishes herself as one of the most talented and most original authors of cyberpunk fiction, because she drives the story powerfully forward and keeps the surprises and thrills coming at a fierce pace. I love her way of making chaos and madness seem sexy and energetic. She keeps all the plot threads firmly in her hands and delivers suprises.

Reading about avatars, Zen, the Zeros, the Hubs and issues concerning Fulcrum and Paraderm was fascinating for me. I found no faults anywhere, because the plot threads related to these things were handled perfectly - shady schemes, power struggle and riveting action collide in a powerful way.

What makes Escapology and Virology especially gorgeous is the author's ability to weave New Weird elements into her story. In both novels, the New Weird elements are an integral part of the story and its fascination. Another thing worth mentioning is that Ren Warom addresses such themes and issues as technological advances, survival, freedom, sexuality, power struggle and out-dated attitudes in both novels.

The action and fight scenes are satisfyingly gritty. Violence is not pretty in this novel, but messy, visceral and brutal. The author doesn't glorify it, but depicts it as realistically as possible and detaches it from Hollywood-like meaningless violence by showing how messy it can be. This brings a lot of freshness to the story.

Just like in Escapology, Ren Warom doesn't explain everything to her readers. As the story unfolds, certain things are explained and revealed, but not everything. This is great, because it's wonderful to read a story in which the author trusts her readers to be intelligent enough to figure out certain things for themselves. This kind of storytelling is deeply rewarding.

I give Virology full five stars on the scale from one to five stars, because it's simply amazing. It's been quite a while since I've read anything as good and enthralling as this novel when it comes to cyberpunk fiction, so I can't help but praise it (this novel truly deserves all the praise it gets). If you're like me and find many cyberpunk novels boring and tedious and lacking in characterisation, you won't be disappointed by this novel, because it's something different.

Ren Warom's Virology is a fast-paced, furious and meaningful science fiction novel that exceeded all of my expectations. If you have a taste for gritty and fascinating cyberpunk fiction, I strongly urge you to read this novel, because it has plenty of style and substance. It's a glorious display of boldness, imagination and strong storytelling.

Highly recommended!

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