Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat - Book Review
by Anca Antoci
Author: Anna Mocikat
Amazon: 4.40 (buy)
Our review: 5.00 (read)
Having enjoyed Shadow City so much, I was overjoyed when Anna Mocikat offered me an ARC of Behind Blue Eyes, a cyberpunk noir novel. It was much darker than I anticipated and my first cyberpunk experience.
As a first-timer, the grit and gore took me aback and I had mixed feelings about it for a while. I had a John Wick moment right at the beginning of the book, you’ll know when you read it. But once you get accustomed to the bleak dystopian world, the action will suck you in completely.
About the plot
The action takes place in 2095, in a dystopian setting where what’s left of the world in the aftermath of a big war, was divided into three parts. Each part was ruled by a conglomerate. What was left of America was now called Olympia and was ruled by cyborgs who call themselves guardian angels and have neon blue eyes.
We see everything through Nephilim’s eyes. If you’re familiar with angel mythology, consider this as foreshadowing — fallen angel. She’s a 60% machine – 40% human hybrid apparently tasked to protect the Olympias. In reality, her sole purpose is to seek and destroy anything Metatron (their supreme leader) deems a risk to the conglomerate.
You have to appreciate the irony of giving angelic code names to such killing machines. Nephilim, true to her name acts as a fallen angel. She’s a guardian angel and like her fellow guardian angels, she’s content with her life awaiting the biggest promotion of her life — archangel.
She’s the best at what she does and although she doesn’t question her orders at first, she starts to, especially after an EMP attack that gives her glitches, moments of freedom when she becomes disconnected from the grid.
There are many themes intertwined in this story. The world-building evokes a mixture of Ready Player One and Alita, except more gritty. It’s a reality of contrasts: a web of truths and lies, right and wrong, humans and machines, love and duty, and ultimately devotion and defiance where Metatron is concerned.
At the heart of the story, there’s a quote from George Orwell:
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that can be given a name.”- George Orwell
Throughout the second part of the story, we see a lot of parallels to the “Big Brother” mentality from Orwell’s 1984.
What I liked best
The best part of this novel was Nephilims’ character arc, which was magnificent considering the starting point. The second best part was how fast-paced and action-packed it was along the way. There was no saggy middle in this book. And when you think you figured out what’s going on — plot twist. Even the plot twists have plot twists! It will haunt you.
Nephilim’s unique among the guardian angels. She feels, she questions and she decides for herself. That’s could bring her early retirement.
“Nephilim turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, feeling confused and annoyed at the same time. What the hell was wrong with her? These thoughts, these feelings were unacceptable. They could lead to the early retirement she had been joking about only a few hours back. And she wasn’t ready for that yet.”
References that stood out
There are many easter eggs hidden in this book and perhaps I missed some of them. I enjoyed reading the Jake was listening to Chopin, a renowned Polish composer, a reminder of Anna’s birthplace.
The power fights between different mega-corporations are reminiscent of the Cold War spies and mind games.
There are several references to classic authors like William Shakespeare, John Milton, Dante Alighieri, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, RayBradbury, and Lev Tolstoi.
Considering how angels are nothing more than glorified killing machines, I was touched by the friendship between Nephilim and Adriel, her designated partner.
Metatron comes across as a complete egotistic maniacal creep, but I suspect he’s way more complex than that. He’s smart and cunning and somehow he’s always one step ahead of everyone else.
“He would quote long-forgotten books one moment, and assault her in the most sadistic and twisted way the next. He was unpredictable.”
We later learn a piece of back story that offers insightful information to understand his fascination with Nephilim. He’s obsessed with her and since she can think for herself she has some tough decisions to make.
“Joining him, submitting to him, would be the closest imaginable thing to a pact with the devil.”
Finwick was another character whose arc surprised and impressed me. While every human in their right mind fears the angels, he sees their beauty. Although he likes all female angels, Nephilim is by far his favorite. In the beginning, he started off as weak and harmless, enamored by the one woman he couldn’t have, and by the end of the book, he was a hero in his own league.