One of the reasons why I initially got involved with social media was to hopefully connect with like-minded people and to meet other authors. Over time I’ve read quite a few “Indie Authors” works. I feel it’s important to support the independent author because many of them are the hidden gems of the literary world who never get the attention they deserve. This mainly has to do with either our culture’s insistence that anything outside the corporate realm can’t possibly be taken seriously or the fact that many indie authors are unfortunately tossed into the same camp as those who may not be worth reading. That’s kind of like saying that just because you’ve heard one shitty indie band or seen a crappy indie film, then all other independents must be shit as well (again, a mentality seemingly only seen in the literary world).
Guns Of Penance by Mari Kurisato is one of those “hidden gems”. This erotic/techno-thriller/fantasy is quite a wild ride. I fist became aware of Kurisato on Twitter after seeing one of her tweets “re-tweeted” by one of my followers. I happened to click on the link for her book, then went on to read the preview of it on the book’s Amazon link. Normally, I don’t read this kind of fiction (not that I have anything against it) but I found the power of her writing to be hard to resist. It was bold, provocative and obviously unafraid to be itself, which is what immediately drew me in. Mari Kurisato was born to an Ojibwe mother in California in 1977. She has worked as a teacher and a digital illustrator among other things. Guns Of Penance is her first novel and a very strong one at that.
Guns Of Penance has a lot going for it, a complicated plot, strong writing, and an honesty behind it that many authors unfortunately tend to shy away from. Yes, the influences are there - a little William Gibson, a bit of Anaïs Nin, and even some film elements like that of Quentin Tarantino. Set in a future dystopian America (where the government has dissolved and taken over by corporations), mostly in what was California, the story mainly revolves around three women: two hired killers - Nanshe Jones and Shokanon Lee and a scared woman on the run named Alexandria who has a secret worth $50 billion dollars which threatens the current status quo. There are many other characters (and told from their points of view) - and the reader has to remain on their toes to follow along - but the three main women are much more than mere “hired guns”. The relationships between them offer the reader a more in depth character study, making them human in what could have easily have been “cookie cutter” characters. Thankfully, this does not happen here and Kurisato injects enough humanity into these characters that the reader can’t help but identifying (and empathizing) with them.
There is plenty of sex and violence too. Imagine Quentin Tarantino and Anaïs Nin collaborating on a film together and you’ll get the idea, which I find interesting for the fact that today’s younger writers have such a wealth of cultural references to draw from and incorporate into their work that it just makes things that much more interesting. This is an action packed, wild ride and it keeps the reader turning the pages to want to know what happens next - because just when you think you know what’s coming (there are some genre cliches here but not so much that it will ruin the experience), Kurisato throws in a twist that takes the story where you won’t expect.
For fans of dystopian/speculative fiction, you can’t go wrong here. What sets Kurisato apart is the strong writing and the feeling that the author had so much damn fun writing it that the reader will have just as much fun reading it.