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The Hive Construct

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Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology – from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind's medical problems.

But it is also a divided city, dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties.

And when a devastating new computer virus begins to spread through the poorest districts, shutting down the life-giving implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle.

Hiding amidst the chaos is Zala Ulora. A gifted hacker and fugitive from justice, she believes she might be able to earn her life back by tracing the virus to its source and destroying it before it destroys the city. Or before the city destroys itself . . .

With its vivid characters, bold ideas and explosive action, The Hive is science fiction at its most exciting, inventive and accessible.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published May 22, 2014

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About the author

Alexander Maskill

1 book3 followers
Alexander Maskill grew up in East Sussex. He has just completed a Politics degree at the University of Leicester and hopes to follow this with an MSc in Computer Science. The Hive Construct is his first novel and won the 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
December 4, 2015
Thanks to Netgalley.

The bad first: What a damn stupid title. There's practically nothing about it that has anything to do with the story except at some far remove. With nothing but the title and the cover to go by, I expected something with alien tech, for heaven's sake.

So, with that out of the way, let's get to what this novel ACTUALLY is.

It's a heavily political techno-thriller set in New Cairo in a society filled with plentiful artificial organ replacements that reminded me as a cross between Known Space Niven and pre-Empire Asimov while sticking entirely to the city in modern Egypt. To some of you out there, that might just tell you everything you ought to know or expect. Spoilers are hereby delivered.

For everyone else, it's really an ideologue-ish and politically heavy tale interspersed with action by city security forces and action by would-be revolutionaries and action by a lone hacker pulling 007 duty to clear her name of assumed murder charges that are, you might have guessed it, fallout from another political ploy. Zala, being the closest character resembling an actual hero in the tale, was unfortunately rather lifeless and failed to put her hooks in me early, despite her hackerish tendencies, but she got a lot more interesting with time.

I'm personally not a gung-ho rabidfan of techothrillers of any stripe, but I've read my fair share and I can sometimes get into them, but it's fairly hit-or-miss with me. I never place them in a category of must read fanatical goodness. Men and women with guns and holding political prisoners seems rather... um... dull. But that's what happens here.

We get the idea drilled into us that no one is truly bad and everyone has really good reasons for doing what they all do. Neither side is blameless, but neither side is truly bad or wrong. I don't mind that. What I do mind is that it sometimes feels heavy-handed and pretty obvious after a while. What saves the novel is the escalation of events in the last third and the explosive ending.

Remember what I said about Asimov? Yeah, only the butler DID do it. Kinda obvious from the start, and I kept praying and praying it might turn out to be some other megavillain or a dream sequence or some OTHER stupid reveal. Still, the ending was easily the best part of the novel, so I won't go poo-pooing it more than I have already. Zala turned into an all right character by the end. Aunt Nancy, on the other hand, was someone I wanted to bitch-slap for being so damn predictable. I've been spoiled by some really great this year, so having the obvious trope do the crime just made me want to cry.

Technothriller fans out there might enjoy this novel more than me, and I wish them all the best luck. In the future, I'd rather like to see more vibrant characters with much better hooks. Something juicy to propel my Care Factor through all the bang bang action sequences. I swear, this probably would have been better as a made for tv miniseries rather than a novel. I don't mind using my imagination, but there's only so much bang bang I can take on a page before my eyes go glassy.

Still, it wasn't a bad novel, and the author's love of both politics and programming shine through a clear as day. If I hadn't been reading this for a good story, and merely for edification or an imaginative exercise, I think the book would rather shine. Unfortunately, I was looking to be entertained with some good SF, not an action novel that teaches me to look at things from all different points of view, telling me to no pre-judge anyone, with just a few SF elements.

Well, like I said, some people will like the method and subgenre a lot more than me. :)
Profile Image for Елена Павлова.
Author 109 books235 followers
August 26, 2014
THC promises everything a SF reader would want: computers, hackers, thrilling plot twists, exotic Egypt and more. Besides, it has won a reliable prize, right?
Wrong. While it is not a very bad book overall, it's not such a good book either.
Pluses: The canvas are vast. The plot is well planned and logical. It IS a book whose last page you would like to see.
Minuses: It is a bland book which would greatly benefit from a serious editor's work. It is painfull to read how the writer struggles to develop his characters, to build conversations, to build his world. The so great canvas are left completely unused. Don't expect to see Egypt from the future - there are no country, culture, people specifics painted. The dialog is, again, bland; you can't really attach to any of the characters. Instead the reader is told what to feel - and at lenght.
As for the computers, programming, AIs, hackers and so on: either the writer doesn't have a clue - and no real vision for the future; or he doesn't want to write properly about all that.
So, as whole, it's a well planned, but badly executed book; it leaves you cold inside, insatiated.

Profile Image for Koeur.
1,078 reviews21 followers
August 24, 2015

Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9780552170383

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.8/5

Publisher Description: Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology—from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind’s medical problems.

Review: I really tried to like this but the characters were fairly one dimensional and the story line was meh. The characters are mired in a story line that combines political angst, rebelliousness set in an unidentifiable future. I still don’t know, really, what New Cairo looks like. There is definitely a weird “social justice” vibe to this novel, although I liked that the existing government is slowly taking away the freedoms of the people. Art mirroring reality and all that. The writing is good but the story line sabotages itself.
445 reviews25 followers
September 2, 2015
*copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*

The Hive Construct is Alexander Maskill’s debut novel. It’s a sci-fi techno-thriller, set in a future version of Cairo. It’s got a lot to recommend it – some interesting concepts, and a compelling story – though there are some things I’d like to see explored further.

The first of these is New Cairo. Maskill does a great job of evoking a living city with relatively broad strokes. There’s a strong sense of society here, and a less strong one of place. The social fabric of New Cairo is drawn with care – we’re taken through the various neighbourhoods with our protagonists. We’re shown the privations of one group, the rising economic and social standing of another, and the affluence of the high-end districts. These are mirrored, at least in part, in the characters that inhabit them. But what we’re seeing here is a city divided by class, divided by a need to work, to acquire food, a desire to live a normal life. This is all brought into focus by one of the central groups in the text, which, amongst other things, is struggling to get a fair economic deal for members. As the heat simmers away in the background, Maskill brings these socio-economic divisions to a head.

It’s a struggle largely seen in dialogue, though the descriptions of the poorer areas of New Cairo are appropriately heart-wrenching. The city, sat in a broken crater, with an artificial sun overhead, fuelled by solar panels, ringed by elevator stations – the city starts to feel alive. I would have been delighted to hear more about this. To have seen more of the politics of the city, not tied to the immediate plot. To have looked in more depth at the neighbourhoods, rather than a passing line. To have delved into the formation of certain social action groups that feature through the text, and seen their demands with a smidge more nuance.
Having said that, this New Cairo is a city of dust, and sand. A city of desire, and of drive. A city of need, and wealth. It’s a study in contrasts, and Maskill has created and manipulated those contrasts to make the location feel real. It would have been a pleasure to spend more time getting into the guts of the city, but what’s there is presented well.

The same sparing ethos is in play for the characters. There are multiple viewpoints at play here. A city politician, desperate to present his point of view (and perhaps to profit thereby) was a personal favourite. There’s also an ex-police mission planner, and an accused murderer turned cyber-expert. And a whole host of supporting cast. From the central triad, it was possible to get a solid sense of character through the narrative. Again, Maskill uses his pen sparingly, and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions. Of the three, it is the ex-policewoman who receives the most non-plot time, or it feels that way – we learn a little about her husband, rather more about her desire to protect her children. Her moral qualms as she’s dragged deeper into a plot which rewards moral failure are a delight. The councillor, by contrast, speaks a great deal, but more of that is exposition. He feels half-alive – there’s enough here to make him interesting to read, but not quite enough to make him come off the page. The cyber-warrior, by contrast, is swathed in a bubble of expository information – whilst she has goals of her own, there’s not a sense of emotional depth. On the other hand, she carries a great deal of the plot comfortably, and manages some highly compelling action scenes – so peaks and troughs.

The plot…well, as you may gather from the above, this is an action move of a book. There’s a great deal of running about. There’s gunfire, and hand to hand combat. There’s a threat that could end life on earth as we know it. And our grimy anti-heroes are the only ones available who might stop it. And it works, it really does. The action is fast-paced and compelling. The dialogue is snappy, believable, and easy to read. The text manages to convey the sense of high stakes, and the prose makes you believe in them, and keep turning pages.

Overall then, this is a good action novel. It has some decent characters, in a well realised, if sparse, setting, in service to a plot which roars like a jet engine. It’s fast-paced, arse-kicking fun, and thoroughly enjoyable for it.

439 reviews12 followers
September 10, 2014
A pretty bad title for a pretty good book.

Zala is a wicked awesome hacker grrl in a fairly distant future. This type of character has become a stereotype, but I have to admit it can be kind of fun. The other two main characters in the story are a liberal (I think) corporate/political scion and a mother-and-recent-widow with a police background who finds herself being won over to the side of a rebellion. I had some trouble understanding some of the things these two characters thought and did and their motivations for it, especially the guy. He seemed to have a split personality or something at times, but if you just go with it the story works.

At the edge of the Sahara in a future Africa is the enormous city of New Cairo, protected in its climate controlled crater. Bio-augmentation is common among its citizens, not only for lifesaving puposes but also to improve on what one was born with. Recently, some people's bio augmentations have been failing for unknown reasons, especially in poorer sections of the city. The failures seem to resemble a virus, so the council places limits on movement from the most heavily affected areas. Unsurprisingly, uninfected folks don't like being locked up where their chances of becoming infected are higher. Currently in the real world, the same kind of thing is playing out in parts of Africa with the Ebola virus.

Unrest grows into rebellion. One of the things I liked about this book is that it is not a simple good guys vs bad guys story. Both sides have good rationales for their position, and both do reprehensible things to achieve their objectives. There is a high body count, neither side is right, and nobody wins. And that works.

I have no idea what the title refers to.

Profile Image for Susanne.
168 reviews42 followers
March 9, 2015
Yummmmmm, cyberthriller. Not too thrilling, mind: The story meanders a bit and the characters experience an awful lot of moral/ethical angst, but it was interesting. Not an awful lot happens, the characters remain fairly bland, and the resolution feels a bit hasty, but I do quite like the world building, and I did care about the virus and whence it came. I still don't know what the hive construct is, though.
Profile Image for Louise Armstrong.
Author 31 books15 followers
March 11, 2016
I didn't enjoy this book much. There were holes in the logic - there's a virus on the loose so the city plaza is described as being deserted, then a few pages later the nightclubs are packed.

It was very surface - like a computer game characters went crash bang wallop and did a bit of shouting. No thinking.

I did like that both the city officials and the rebels were shown as having some right on their side. It wasn't a clear cut goodies v baddies situation.

Profile Image for Liviu.
2,251 reviews630 followers
Shelved as 'tried-but-not-for-me'
August 18, 2015
took a look at this as the blurb seemed cool, but the writing didn't click with me
Profile Image for David Agranoff.
Author 23 books134 followers
May 10, 2016
This is a really interesting modern cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller about a computer virus that crosses into body horror territory. In this future Cairo nearly every has mechanical upgrades woven into their bodies. So when A virus causes those bio-mechanical upgrades to fail the city falls into chaos and is shut off from the rest of the world. The political reality of this future city is the backbone of the story and drives the characters and plot. Our Point of view shifts but the main character is Zala Ulora who hacks her way back into the city even though many blame her father for creating the virus.

The street protests and resistance cells operating around the city are the most interesting aspects of the story. The kidnapping of powerful member of the city council to me provided the most interesting of the various plot threads. the novel explored several cool settings and ideas exploring the technology. This novel just didn't have the edge it needed, but still there were enough interesting elements to keep me reading.

To me the biggest problem was that the novel felt like it was set in America, or somewhere in the west. When I saw that it was set in the middle east, I thought a sci-fi novel in a different cultural setting would be cool. The middle east of the future simply felt to recognizable to me. It was a wasted setting. I feel like Maskill could have benefitted from another year of research on the Arab Spring. That is what I was hoping for a cyberpunk twist on the revolution in the Middle East. Close, but just not exactly what I was hoping for. By the way I have no idea what the title means. No idea at all.
Profile Image for Leah.
408 reviews65 followers
August 24, 2015

This book was a quick, fun and unexpected read. I hadn't read a science fiction book in awhile so the request to review this came at a really good time. The more technical side of science fiction isn't something that I've had a lot of luck with in the past, but I really enjoyed this one. The Hive Construct is fast-paced with plenty of action to keep you turning the pages. Zala was a great character but I loved that we got to see various viewpoints throughout - it definitely gave me a better understanding of the events that were unfolding and the reasons behind everything.

I always find myself blown away by some really talented debuts. Maskill's writing style doesn't come across as a first novel at all. I really felt that the book benefited from his background in computer science as well. I loved learning about the more technical aspects regarding the technology; it helped make everything that little bit more believable. My reason for the 3.5* rating is that although I really enjoyed the book. I don't think that the more technical side is still completely for me. It wasn't a fault with the book itself, it was more down to personal preference.

The Hive Construct is an enjoyable science-fiction read with plenty of twists and turns to keep you turning the pages. It certainly isn't one to miss and it is well deserving of the Terry Pratchett Prize!
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews991 followers
October 13, 2015
The Hive Construct is a well written and engaging scifi thriller, an intriguing mix of adventure and technology set in an imaginative world of political shenanigans.

Multiple points of view but grounded by protagonist Zala, a colourful and interesting character who has been exiled due to her Father, but who returns to New Cairo upon the death of a friend with the intention of finding out what is causing the virus that is decimating the population.

I really enjoyed this it has to be said – the scientific elements are really compelling, I am a bit of a sucker for a good hacker story and on top of that we have a rebellion and a political landscape that is well drawn and absorbing.

It is the story of a city in turmoil, the author does a good job of blurring the lines between right and wrong – some interesting and thought provoking concepts of class divide but all mixed up in plenty of action and twists and turns. Overall a really great read, absolutely riveting in places and full of fascinating characters all with different agenda’s.

I will look forward to more from this author.

Happy Reading Folks!
Profile Image for Kathe Coleman.
505 reviews19 followers
May 16, 2017
Set in the 22nd century New Cairo is a vast metropolis under the Sahara Desert controlled by a small number of all-powerful technological corporations in the business of providing bio-augmentations, a technology that allows a person to modify bodily functions, making them healthier intelligent and stronger. So many augmentations of body parts that people began to question the use of the body as anything other than a tool. Virus hits and those with augmentations are dying so the questions was is it a computer virus, or a virus attacking the body? Where did it come from and the ultimate question Was it man made if so who would benefit? Great story fast paced and fun. It was awarded the biennial Terry Pratchett First Novel Award.
Profile Image for Claire.
1,479 reviews14 followers
December 5, 2015
For some reason, this refused to stay high on my priority list. Normally I adore political techno sci-fi, but this go round my mind refused to embrace Maskill's world.

Probably it has something to do with my health, which has been medium-poor. It's worth a reread when I'm feeling better.
Profile Image for Jasper.
419 reviews37 followers
October 20, 2014
originally posted at: http://thebookplank.blogspot.com/2014...

Who doesn't like a good near future, dystopian, computer tech focused kind of story? These kind of themes plays into a lot of interests of mine so when I was notified about the release of The Hive Construct earlier this year I got very excited. Furthermore the mentioning of bio augmentations really made me even more excited for the story. A year ago I finished the computer game Deus Ex Human Revolution and this made me look differently towards augs and some of the ethnic parts involved so all in all I had high hopes for this story. The Hive Construct is written by Alexander Maskill, who wrote this story just when he was 17, just as with the books of Henry Venmore-Rowland Transworld has struck a amazing deal. Alexander Maskill also won the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award. Just a small note upfront, Alexander Maskill does live up to them!

The Hive Construct picks up readily inspiring a very dire setting the world as we no it, is extinct. There is a huge teeming city underneath the Saraha Desert, called New Cairo, where people now live. Even though this is a place of refuge the living is hard and resources such as food are scare. I was impressed with the whole dystopian setting that Alexander Maskill was able to inspire in just a few pages, like the dangers of the world. What makes the feeling of the world of The Hive Construct even more dire is the division of the poor and the rich. New Cairo is in the hands of a few rich cooperations that are able to do things for themselves, for their own gain.

The story of The Hive Construct picks up with three different storylines. The first is of the hacker Zala Ulora, a girl with a dark past. Zala has had many run ins with justice in the past and her return to New Cairo is with a specific goal in mind. She wants to clear her name and get her old life back and one thing that can help her do this is by finding out the roots of the virus known as Soucouyant, that is currently plaguing the people of New Cairo. But there is a twist given to who can catch Soucouyant. It infects peoples bioaugmentations, and given a world where people rely heavily on such things... well... you can safely assume that people fear it. In her quest of finding the origins of the virus Zala has to go trough a lot, she is a skilled hacker, granted, one of the best, but this is a quest that cannot be completed by merely a computer and a keyboard. When she goes on investigating, she faces some very strong opponents and finds herself in some impossible situations, luckily she has her wits about her that help her out.

The second storyline that you follow is that of Ryan Granier, a Councillor of New Cairo. The city of New Cairo is in quarantine and he is starting to play a game, a game that tries to win support on one hand but with some other motives that the people are led to believe. Ryan is leading strong force against the quarantine of New Cairo but he actually wants to only get higher up in the city's council. Well I am not saying you get what you deserve but some things happen to Ryan that where you can say: karma. When I learned more details I actually started to feel for the guy. But then again, karma...

The third storyline is that of Alice, a recently widowed mother who wants nothing more for her children to escape New Cairo. Her husband though was part of a revolutionary group and this past is haunting her and her children and they get caught up in a deadly game and getting out is not an option. I do have to be honest and say that I didn't quite enjoy this storyline compared to the other two, it wasn't necesarily misplaced, the emotional current did fit very strongly in the whole idea of the story but I just missed the connection with the characters.

The three storyline begin slowly, which allow Alexander Maskill to put the setting right, gradually Alexander Maskill picks up the pace in the three storylines, I really liked the picking up of the speed as this produced just the right thing for a thriller, some very important plot twists were revealed that make you wonder just what will happen next, being wrong and again being suprised by what Alexander Maskill has in store for you. Even better yet is that he converges the storyline into a one story in the end seeing a bit of the interconnection between the character, creating a well rounded story.

I already mentioned above that the setting of The Hive Construct is nailed spot-on, I forgot to mention however that this is far from a humurous and funny book, the works of Terry Pratchett often feature on the comical side but The Hive Construct is a thriller sort of story with very bleak surrounding.

When it comes to world building and the surroundings of the story, the whole city of New Cairo was very craftely made and executed into fine details but when I looked at the bigger picture the story could have taken place in any different continent and I didn't get the Egytian influences for the full 100%, yes it still inspires an arabic sort of feeling but if The Netherlands would have been turned into a desert wasteland it could have been just the location as well. But you know the story does take place mostly in New Cairo so that is what matters and that is what Alexander Maskill show very well.

Now what thing that surprised me was the focus of the story. The Hive Construct is an action story but it doesn't necessarily put the emphasis on the action alone. There are still plenty of action scenes, especially in the end of the book, wow (btw), but instead of the action Alexander Maskill explores more of a humane side of it, both emotional and economical, which really changes your prespective on the story, at least for me it did. It's with these kind of changes on where to put the focus one, that make such a story readily enjoyable and one-of-a-kind.

The Hive Construct is a definite recommendation. I enjoyed reading the book a lot, perhaps because I am a bit of a nerd that I like the emphasis of the themes suchs as bioaugmentations, hacking and a virus that attackes these bioaugmentations, but if you are looking for your next thriller, The Hive Construct is also more than suited for you. Furthermore is has a connectable protagonist and the secondary characters of the book all help to inspire a complete, whole, feeling to the story. The Hive Construct can be considered as a stand alone book, I don´t think a sequel is opted for it and the story does end with one big bang, butI do think there is plenty of room for a possible sequel. Also I do have to say that is Alexander Maskill was able to write this at 17, watch out for him, I am eager to see what other creative stories he will be able to come up with. Recommended!

64 reviews
July 18, 2017
I loved the idea behind this story, but found myself struggling to get through it. It felt too much like the Arab Spring meets Neuromancer meets your every day tough guy cop book.

I think this would make a better video game than it did a book - in fact, I think it'd make a fun video game if the guys behind Deux Ex got hold of it.
32 reviews
October 16, 2018
Scary parallels with todays political and social climate!
Profile Image for Robert.
509 reviews39 followers
October 12, 2014
You can also find my review of The Hive Construct on my book blog

New Cairo is an underground city inside a giant crater, surrounded, like a crown, by waytowers / elevator exits. The roof of the city is covered in solar panels; an artificial sun lights the inside. Inside the city, many people are effectively cyborgs, augmented with artificial limbs and organs. Unrest is stirring: some affliction has been shutting down the augmentations, leaving people disabled, and even dead. A curfew has been put in place. People from the areas where the infection is common are not allowed to leave the city, supposedly to keep the outside world safe. But it does not seem like a coincidence that those are also the poorer areas of the city - augmentations being pivotal to hard physical labour and industrial work.

Then, a hooded stranger walks up to the waytower, seeking to return secretly to the city...

The Hive Construct won the 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize (for first novels). Despite its patron, this is not a comedy novel (nor a prize for humorous works). It's a thriller set in a future of CCTV-ridden, highly networked cities, of bio-augmentations and contact lenses that work much like Google Glasses. In terms of technology, there is nothing in the book that seems inconceivable - and nothing you haven't encountered before in other science fiction. But the story isn't really interested in technology: it's interested in the politics of resistance and uprising.

The main characters are a computer hacker with a past, a city councillor who is part of a dynasty of super-wealthy and politicians, and a mother who just lost her husband (a revolutionary) and who wishes to escape the city with her children. They all have different problems at the start: one wants to find and solve the virus problem, the second has been kidnapped, and the third finds herself drawn into directing operations due to her experience of running police ops from her computer.

The Hive Construct has several admirable qualities: it never gets boring, it builds up some degree of credibility in its characters and their actions, and everyone has their own problems to deal with. No one is a square-jawed selfless hero.

Set against that is a series of flaws. While the setting may be called New Cairo, it does not feel authentically Egyptian. Where Ian MacDonald creates immersive futures set in emerging nations, this novel just picks up a few vaguely Egyptian-sounding names, but could otherwise be just as easily set in America or Britain. And while the characters seem more or less believable, the story still treats the wider population - crowds especially - as a malleable mass, easily manipulated, directed, a flow, rather than anything feeling realistically like people. This gives the book a strangely detached feel, especially in the later chapters. These come across like a strategy game or a Roland Emmerich movie: lots of action, but not much punch.

In the end, it's a novel experimenting around with politics. Inspired by the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, the London Riots, every bit of unrest and economic disparity, it's really a novel wondering about the rich and the poor, about politicians and corporations, about ends justifying means and how the means might affect the ends. It's a thought experiment, dressed as a scifi thriller. It's not stupid, but, like other novels which toy around with such themes, it feels a bit too calculated, a bit too concerned with its points to really connect. It's like reading China Mieville's more political novels (e.g. Iron Council), but without the linguistic distractions.

As thrillers go, it's not bad, and on a par with Michael Crighton's work. I had hoped for something a bit more ambitious, though.
Profile Image for Graeme Shimmin.
Author 6 books63 followers
October 5, 2014
It’s the 22nd century. New Cairo is a city underneath the Sahara desert where people have bio-augments: artificial implants that make them healthier, more intelligent and stronger. The city is under quarantine because of a computer virus that is killing people by shutting down their bio-augments. The shuttles to the surface have been suspended and the poor areas are locked down as the virus seems more prevalent there.

Zala Urura is a computer hacker who has been on the run for years. She returns to New Cairo to try to stop the virus. Zala herself has no bio-augments, finding them repulsive.

Councillor Ryan Granier is leading the legal opposition to the quarantine. Secretly though, his opposition is a charade aimed at securing him a position as a senior councillor. The night before a crucial vote, he is kidnapped by the New Cairo Liberation Corps, NCLC, who are violently opposing the quarantine.

Will the NCLC or the council win the battle for control of New Cairo? Can Granier escape?
Can Zala discover the source of the virus and stop it from spreading? Or is the city doomed?

Much of the milieu of The Hive Construct seems influenced by the computer game series Deus Ex – bio-augments, powerful corporations, the split between rich and poor, and the role of artificial intelligences for example. Of course these games were in turn influenced by classic cyberpunk novels, so it’s interesting to see the diffusion of influence running both ways.

Some of the most successful sequences in The Hive Construct revolve around Zala and her attempts to trace the virus through the computer systems of New Cairo, which often involves having to physically access particular locations and computer terminals as she tries to determine where the virus came from and what she can do to stop it.

The combat sequences are also reminiscent of turn-based video games like XCOM, with the action described by a controller who orders the fighters around using a computerised interface. However, the action sequences near the climax are first person, giving a more visceral feel.

The writing is generally straightforward genre-style. It does though include a lot of bald exposition. This has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it makes the novel accessible, as it’s clear what is happening, what everyone’s background is and what they are thinking and feeling. On the other hand, it can slow the novel down. The first quarter in particular is quite slow. Around the half way mark though, the novel really starts to build momentum and the last quarter is fast-paced and gripping with its revelations of what the virus really is and the final battle between the NCLC and the police.

Overall, a strong début novel. Alex has a promising future.

See my spoiler including review and plot synopsis at http://graemeshimmin.com/hive-constru...
292 reviews229 followers
April 16, 2016
This review was originally published on my blog on 17th August 2015. You can find it here.

When I first heard about this book, I jumped on the chance to read it because it sounded like an incredible book. And it was. I’d actually been in the middle of an extremely long and extremely frustrating reading slump where no book could hold my attention for very long and then I started reading The Hive Construct and I simply struggled to put it down. It frustrated me when I had to and it was constantly on my mind when I wasn’t reading it. This book was powerful from the very beginning until the very end and I am incredibly glad that I decided to read it.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this book, aside from the amazing writing style, was the way that the book was layed out. I loved that it jumped from different characters on different sides of everything. It made you feel like you were watching a movie instead of reading a book as you got to know every little thing about what was going on but also all the added bonuses of reading a book with emotional detail and thought processes. I also loved the world-building and the world in general. The idea that one day we will all have computer implants to help us better our lives and work ethics is both scary and potentially real. It really made this book that much more fascinating to me.

By far my favourite character in this book was Zala. I love how fiesty she is and I thought her back story was so heartbreaking but also turned her into an incredible character. I loved Alice as well, I thought she was so well written and I loved hearing more about her story. Somehow Alexander has created a book with characters that you can’t help but feel emotional about and you end up unsure which side of the agenda you sit. It’s incredibly effective and just makes the book that much more interesting to read.

Overall this book is one that I am certain I will return to. I will also definitely be keeping an eye on Alexander Maskill from now on to make sure that I don’t miss his next book. I loved that it pulled me in straight away. I loved that it was a world you could literally imagine coming to pass and I loved that the characters were strong and intricate – because I love characters and character-driven stories. This book is one that makes you think, the makes you emotional, and one that you will definitely not want to miss out on. So, what are you waiting for? Go get reading!
60 reviews
May 9, 2016
A very well written work. The depth of the book not only comes from the world building, it is also evident in the personality of the characters.

This book follows three characters, Zala Ulora (whom I'm secretly cheering for), Alice Amirmoez and Councillor Ryan Granier. Zala is a hacker with falsely accused charges, Alice is the wife of a rebel and Ryan is the son of the ruler of the city where everything is set in New Cairo. All three have to navigate the quagmire of violence and injustice as they make their best choices amid the chaos of the city.

What I find great about this book is the way the author slowly brought the city into life, with corporations holding the most power, the animosity between the endowed and those who and nothing. Through the choices of the characters and those around them, we can see how such differences shape the landscape of the city. Unusually for a book with three primary viewpoints, all three characters are remarkably developed and they evolve ask the way till the end of the book.

Another plus to this book is that it doesn't focus overly on hacking. While it made up an important part of the book, especially for Zala's portion, it is humans that such activities ultimately affect; their decisions from such adversities results in retaliatory actions of others that are affected, ultimately bringing out tensions that are buried during times of relative prosperity.

An altogether satisfying read that I could barely put down even for mealtimes and sleep.
Profile Image for Helen .
462 reviews10 followers
October 29, 2015
What a corker of a debut from Alexander Maskill - Thank you Netgalley and Random House/Transworld for the opportunity to read and review this award winning book!

This is a fantastic sci-fi thriller set in a futuristic Africa. The descriptions of the city and people are vivid and imaginative and the technological advances are fabulous. This all acts as a great backdrop to the real story of political unrest in a two tier society; the politicians and big businesses protecting the status quo and the resistance movement orchestrating an uprising amongst the poor.

The main characters were believable and all had their human frailties, the pacing was brilliant and kept me turning the pages to see what was next. The technology and terminology was sometimes over detailed/technical for a non techie like me to follow but that is my only criticism. I will look out for more from this brilliant new author - Highly recommended 4.5
Profile Image for Ed.
85 reviews9 followers
August 27, 2015
This is a sci-fi story of a hacker in a cyberpunk world of New Cairo. It's set around some events unfolding around a virus - that's spreading across the city and causing panic and chaos.

Into this mix comes Zala - a hacker who was effectively exiled 8 years previously for some crimes she didn't commit, and who thinks she might be able to help - and hopefully get those crimes expunged from her record as a result.

I quite enjoyed it - it's an excellent debut novel, and I hope to see more by this author.
The plot moved on steadily, and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. I think I had guessed what was going on before Zala did, but that might be with the benefit of having exposure to a reasonable amount of sci-fi.

But it was certainly a fairly plausible future vision - and a little dystopian, thanks to the power mostly being in the hands of the corporations.
Profile Image for Slingshot.
159 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2014
Started strong, ended weaker - 2.5 rounded up to 3. I got sucked in by New Cairo from the blurb on the back and while the descriptions of the settings were strong, the characterization was all over the place. Despite the set up, the twist was not a surprise. The writer shows a lot of promise and the concepts were intriguing.
Profile Image for Polly Krize.
1,928 reviews39 followers
August 25, 2015
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book started strongly with the promise of a good dystopian thriller. Unfortunately, the combination of slow pace and bland characterization somehow missed the point for me. Had potential, perhaps a bit of strong editing would have helped. Not sure what the Hive Construct is, either. Only my opinion.
Profile Image for Angela.
135 reviews
March 14, 2015
was an interesting book but it didn't really get going till nearly the end then I was on the edge of my seat. I had a hard time following who was who and it got a little confusing in parts.
But all in all I'm glad I persevered with it.
Profile Image for Lilla Smee.
133 reviews22 followers
July 13, 2017
Could have done with a little less clunky, perfunctory and obvious philosophising about what it means to be human in a world with rapidly developing AI (tacked on near the end), but overall pretty satisfying.
Profile Image for Sean Martin.
157 reviews4 followers
February 8, 2016
Really good read, although seriously grim ending. Ending was telegraphed a bit too obviously which took away a bit from the big reveal.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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