Better than Real

Rated 4.00/5 based on 6 reviews
Sent to a murder scene to defuse a delicate situation, love-doll designer Lee finds that his sexiest creation yet has gone lethally wrong, infiltrated by Lilith, a mysterious rogue AI who's as comfortable with assassination as with seduction.

In a life-or-death race with Lilith's creators, Lee risks the very stuff of his humanity--and his best chance of salvation turns out not to be human at all.

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Published by Velluminous Press
Words: 78,570
Language: English
ISBN: 9781452305189

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Reviews

Review by: Ric Austria on Sep. 03, 2012 :
As published on my Goodreads account:
An eminently readable cyperpunk, action SF fable stocked with engaging characters and fearsome villains. Lee, a techie who gets caught in the middle of an escape attempt by a self-aware sex android and the quasi-military organization that wants to keep her under wraps, is reminiscent of Neo of The Matrix, although with more eastern culture (read Chinese) proclivities. His motivation is the potential wealth and fortune he can bring to himself and his family should he be able to commercialize the entity embodied in the android. The android, Lilith, turns out to be a trained assasin who has skills to match the bad guys' worst nightmare --- Stranger (rhymes with hanger), a cyborg honed to the efficient termination of its 'clients'. Along the way, the waif Sooz, teenage resident of the slum-like parking hive, is wafted along the rushing air of flight. Hooked up in an unlikely alliance, the trio of Lee, Lilith and Sooz wind up in a massive underground project to send a seed ship into space. There's a bit of a disjoint in the story flow here going from the flat out escape to their resurrection at the base of the shipwrights. But perhaps, Thomas was aiming for the James Bond effect - going from one seriously bad situation to an even bigger scene at the boss' main base.
This is one of those books meant to be devoured in one or two sittings. It's not that long, perhaps only novella length, and it moves along at a good pace. Like a blockbuster movie, this is not a story inviting you to stop and pause at spots to think about what's actually going on, but just hurtles on to what mad conclusion it has planned for you. That's probably the best formula to enjoy this book, to think of it as a two-day read just like a two-hour movie.
And I did enjoy it. The print version may be hard to find but e-versions are available on Smashwords. The author apparently has not written another SF book so this may be a one-up that defines the whole SF career of Huw Lyan Thomas, making it all the more precious.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Ric Austria on Sep. 03, 2012 :
Full review at: Better Than Real: Sensual Solutions for the Discerning Client by Huw Lyan Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An eminently readable cyperpunk, action SF fable stocked with engaging characters and fearsome villains. Lee, a techie who gets caught in the middle of an escape attempt by a self-aware sex android and the quasi-military organization that wants to keep her under wraps, is reminiscent of Neo of The Matrix, although with more eastern culture (read Chinese) proclivities. His motivation is the potential wealth and fortune he can bring to himself and his family should he be able to commercialize the entity embodied in the android. The android, Lilith, turns out to be a trained assasin who has skills to match the bad guys' worst nightmare --- Stranger (rhymes with hanger), a cyborg honed to the efficient termination of its 'clients'. Along the way, the waif Sooz, teenage resident of the slum-like parking hive, is wafted along the rushing air of flight. Hooked up in an unlikely alliance, the trio of Lee, Lilith and Sooz wind up in a massive underground project to send a seed ship into space. There's a bit of a disjoint in the story flow here going from the flat out escape to their resurrection at the base of the shipwrights. But perhaps, Thomas was aiming for the James Bond effect - going from one seriously bad situation to an even bigger scene at the boss' main base. This is one of those books meant to be devoured in one or two sittings. It's not that long, perhaps only novella length, and it moves along at a good pace. Like a blockbuster movie, this is not a story inviting you to stop and pause at spots to think about what's actually going on, but just hurtles on to what mad conclusion it has planned for you. That's probably the best formula to enjoy this book, to think of it as a two-day read just like a two-hour movie.And I did enjoy it. The print version may be hard to find but e-versions are available on Smashwords. The author apparently has not written another SF book so this may be a one-up that defines the whole SF career of Huw Lyan Thomas, making it all the more precious.

View all my reviews
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: andy on Feb. 02, 2011 :
A little bit incoherent in places,But still pretty good.
would like to know more about the "Bad guys"
Who are Electis, what do they do/want.
Hope to learn more in future books.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: David Grace on Feb. 01, 2011 :
I liked the idea of the book but it felt as if the story was plotted as it was written. The pieces didn't seem to hold together as a coherent whole and the society as portrayed could not have functioned as it did given the technology the story claimed existed.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Doug Pardee on Oct. 17, 2010 :
Wow. This cyber-future action thriller is almost perfect. The twists and turns of the plot follow naturally but surprisingly from the postulated tech advances. The pace never lets up from the opening line. The writing is solid, and the editing is squeaky clean. You can't do better than this top-grade novel.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Francis W. Porretto on March 04, 2010 :
You've got to love a book that starts with a genuine bang.

Better Than Real is a near-future SF action-adventure. Its main protagonist, Lee, designs sex androids for Zendyne Corp., which apparently has a monopoly on that sort of product. Thing is, its androids aren't supposed to object to what their owners demand of them. Lilith, the android that committed the murder described above, clearly objected most strenuously, though we're not told exactly what elicited her homicidal response.

Lilith, you see, is an escaped artificial intelligence created by a shadowy force that calls itself Electis. She was intended for assassination duties, which she found repugnant. Electis wants its property back...but Lilith would rather stay free, and with Lee. The central plot thread concerns Lee, Lilith, and Sooz, a ragamuffin teen child of a single mother who makes her living selling illegal drugs, as they twist and turn to evade Electis's agents. One of those agents, Stranger, has been enhanced well beyond the abilities of common humanity...but then, Lilith, in her Artemis 7300 android host body, has a few extra abilities of her own.

A book such as Better Than Real necessarily involves willing suspension of disbelief of its SF elements: artificial intelligence on a human scale, androids that can't be told visually or tactilely from human beings, mind archiving and "downloads," routine cloning, monomolecular blades, nanotech, et alii. But Thomas's slam-bang pace and the intense coloration he gives his Marquee characters are more than adequate reason, especially since he creates a coherent setting into which to embed those elements.

Better Than Real is written in a traditional narrative style, minimally decorated and utterly free of technical and mechanical flaws. It's a polished, highly entertaining work by a writer I'm happy to have encountered. I hope he has more books of this quality to bestow upon us.

Theme: You can't create humanlike sentience without giving it freedom. I concur: A+
Plot: A
Characterization: A+
Style: A

Highly recommended.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

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