Like those works, it also pays tribute to classic film noir, with a blonde femme fatale, a loyal, spunky brunette (they happen to be the same person, natch – that's not a big spoiler as it's revealed right away) and a mysterious, laconic detective (actually, security guy, but he fills the hard-boiled detective role).
There's gorgeous world-building, graceful exposition, tons of plot, sexual tension, hot sex, and action. The only thing missing is three-dimensional characters to invest in. I can't even begin to describe the plot, but here's what Carina Press has to say:
“Vynessa Somerton was just a girl when she learned about true evil. An encounter with the tyrannical Corporation scarred her body and exiled her to the crime-ridden S-District. Now an adult, Vyn creates glamours, worn by those who visit a virtual playground to live synthetic dreams. She's tried to stay unnoticed by the Corporation, but her latest invention has brought their agents to her door.
Paul Cross works for the Corporation, but he's been plotting their downfall since they took his brother and replaced him with an imposter. Paul has a plan to get his brother back, but he's going to need Vyn and her invention to carry it out.
Vyn agrees to help Paul, but their alliance shatters the barriers she's put up to protect herself, tempting her to give in to desire. Just as Vyn starts to trust Paul and believe he wants her, scars and all, the Corporation prepares for its final move. Can Vyn trust Paul completely, or has he been using her all along?”
I often complain that I want eBooks to be longer, but it isn't always true. Some eBooks benefit from a short length because the pace stays fast. Unfortunately, this book absolutely needed to be longer to succeed. I would totally read a 300+ page novel of this story. The atmosphere was so compelling I wanted the book to go on and on.
But, I never cared about the people or believed in their romance, because I just didn't know enough about them. I would have liked to have had a couple of chapters just about each protagonist before they even met each other. I wanted to understand more about why they liked each other, other than lust. I wanted to understand why their efforts mattered to themselves and to their world over-all, and I wanted more of a sense of accomplishment at the end (although the sense of not fully winning the day fit well with the noir theme). For that matter, I wanted more substance to the atmosphere and a better understanding of how this world works.
Synthetic Dreams worked well as a quick diversion but to engage the emotions it needs to be expanded. I hope the author decides to re-work it as I think it could be an outstanding full-length novel (or fuller-length novel depending on whether you define it's current form as a novel or a novella). All the ingredients for an “A” grade book are there, they just need time to come together.