Book Title: The Girl in the Machine – Leah King, Book 3
Author: Philip Harris
Publication Date: Feb 17, 2017
Available On: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Leah is practicing her skills as a hacker in the virtual world, strengthening her natural talents to help TRACE, the group challenging the tyrannical Transport Authority. All too aware that her family is gone, she’s developed some familial bonds with the TRACE soldiers and found her true purpose. Then, she’s sent on a crucial mission to help retrieve an important operative, Morgan, from Transport’s clutches. Led by Alice, whom we met in The Girl in the Wilderness (Leah King Book 2), their team runs into multiple complications on a dangerous and unsanctioned mission.
But the action intensifies as they try infiltrating a Transport facility, the tension rises and the problems get worse until the unthinkable happens, culminating with Leah fighting for her life! Facing a cruel enemy who knows more about Leah’s background than she does, her tormentor uses that knowledge to try to pry the information she desires the most out of her. The struggle to survive and get the information she needs to save thousands of lives takes place in both the virtual and real worlds. Will Leah get the critical intelligence she needs to succeed in her mission as well as answer questions about her own past?
The action sequences in this novel are top-notch, with edge-of-your-seat excitement. From train battles to the ones in virtual reality battling wolves and humans alike, these sequences are clear-cut, well-written and raise the hackles on your arms with each thrilling battle. Once the action ramps up, it becomes relentless as Leah and her team fight to solve one problem after another.
The parts of the book that take place in the virtual world, which makes up a large portion of the latter half of the book, are equally exhilarating. Your senses are heightened in these parts of the novel, really immersing me so deeply, it feels almost like a hyper-reality. The writing is so vivid, you imagine yourself occupying Leah’s shoes as she moves through the different virtual worlds and each danger she encounters.
Leah has been through a lot in the first two books in this trilogy and in this novel, she will be tested like she has never before. From a hair-raising adventure into a Transport facility’s network to a face-off in a virtual reality against a wily enemy who’s trying to psychologically break her down piece by piece, the odds are stacked against her and the chances of success are slim.
The struggles she faces are a test of her character in the midst of a war and this is what makes this story so enveloping. Leah is a teenager in a war against an indomitable foe and yet, she keeps trying to succeed despite the odds being stacked against her. And when she’s left on her own with no help from others, she is forced to find a way to succeed or die trying.
Leah is only a teenager, albeit a very resilient and intelligent one. Her story of an average girl, an underdog if there ever was one, that’s thrust into wartime and developing her hacker skills. This is a fascinating tale of a strong and indomitable teen. Haunted by all the Transport has taken from her, you feel pity for her with each peril she faces while you root for her to succeed because of all she has lost. This all contributes to her development as a character and her growing maturity in the face of war is the most interesting aspect of her character and her journey through all three novels, right up to the very end.
Not content to just be an adventure, this novel also adeptly explores the nature of identity as Leah discovers her own past and decides whom she wants to be as a person as well as the principles she holds dear. Combined with the dilemma she faces against the enemy who has taken so much from her already, this adds a welcome and deeply personal dimension to the story as well. All of this adds up to a deeply satisfying novel that brought me on a fast roller-coaster ride filled with memorable characters, unpredictable situations, and dangerously dire straits.
Overall, this novel was the most harrowing of the trilogy and also the one with the highest stakes and the richest characterization. The world of Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania Omnibus is a fertile playground for terrific stories. This novel takes full advantage of them to present a trilogy that stands on its own yet enriches the rich tapestry of the Pennsylvania universe.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Philip Harris include “The Girl in the City“, “The Girl in the Wilderness“, “Serial Killer Z“, “Serial Killer Z: Sanctuary“, “Serial Killer Z: Shadows“, “Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet” and “Glitch Mitchell and the Island of Terror“.