Bluescreen by Dan Wells – book review

"Bluescreen" by Dan Wells.
“Bluescreen” by Dan Wells.
I have been a fan of Dan Wells since he first released I Am Not a Serial Killer and its sequels. Bluescreen is quite a bit different than those books, being more cyberpunk mystery than horror. It’s much closer in feel to his Partials series, which isn’t surprising since the main character in both is a teenage girl.

Bluescreen is set in the poorer Los Angeles neighborhood of Mirador in the 2050s. Instead of smartphones, most people have a djinni, a smart cybernetic implant. The main character, Marisa Carneseca, is somewhat rebellious as well as a bit of a hacker. While she thinks she is right on the bleeding edge of technology, she suddenly finds herself in over her head when one of her friends is almost killed by a virtual drug.

I found the setting of the book to be quite believable and interesting. The tech jargon may confuse some people, but I picked it up pretty quickly. Marisa’s family owns a restaurant, and her parents work very hard every day to make sure their kids have everything they need as well as some of the things they want. Marisa, who lost her arm in an accident when she was very young, was ecstatic to get high-end prosthetic which was almost like the real thing as far as feel.

Despite all this, Marisa is often stereotypically aloof and grumpy, and frequently does things that cause grief for her parents. I think I showed my age when I sympathized more with Marisa’s parents than with her. There were a few times in Bluescreen where I wanted to grab her and ask her, “What were you thinking? Were you even thinking?!?”

The cast of the book is pretty large, and Dan did a great job with most of the characters. However, it took me about half the book to finally remember which character was which for a few of them. They were interesting characters once I got to know them, but there were just too many introduced too quickly. Some of the characters also tended to have convenient knowledge at just the right moment, even when they weren’t looking things up quickly online using their djinnis.

Bluescreen is the first book in a series, and a fair amount of it is spent setting things up for the future books. This is good in some ways, as Wells gives us a lot of depth on the location, Marisa, her friends (at least some of them), and the online world. It is bad because only a few things are resolved, and there are more questions at the end of the book than answers. I don’t mind having book-spanning arcs, but I also like to have a fair amount of closure in each volume, and I didn’t see all that I wanted in this one.

Despite it not being exactly what I wanted, I still generally liked the ending. It wasn’t what I expected, and I like being surprised. I was a little put off by some of the violence, but it’s not as graphic as The Hunger Games, so that’s a plus. There is definitely enough to like about Bluescreen to keep me interested in reading the rest of the series as it comes out. I recommend it.

Release Date: February 16, 2016 (USA)
ISBNs: 006234787X (9780062347879)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Language: English

MySF Rating: Three point five stars
Family Friendliness: 70%


Alcohol/Drugs: 3 (underage drinking and regular drug use)
Language: 1 (some, mostly mild)
Sexuality: 1 (brief, innuendo)
Violence: 4 (virtual violence, large gunfights, regular brutal violence, death, some graphic descriptions)

Tell us what you think!