Author: Santino Hassell
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 3 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Review: Nate Black has nothing. His life is a dead end. Nate’s psychic abilities have made him a freak, he’s barely educated, and he’s gay. Nate doesn’t have a lot of compelling reasons to stay in Texas. When Nate finds himself trapped in a vision of his twin brother Theo’s murder things only get more complicated. Nate’s family gets involved. The Black family is complicated. Nate didn’t realize how complicated they were. The complications are yucky. It’s Not Good. Nate walks away. He has nothing but his brother’s backpack as he sets out to hitchhike to New York. Trent picks Nate up. Trent isn’t what Nate expected. Nate’s empathic abilities usually show him the less pleasant side of people. Trent makes Nate feel good. They get close as they trek across the US. Luckily, Trent is going all the way to New York. By the time they arrive they’re not exactly in the midst of a fully fledged relationship, but they’re no longer simply acquaintances. Nate begins looking into his brother’s death. His friends are less than thrilled. It seems Theo wasn’t any nicer to the people in New York than he was to Nate. Theo had been loosely affiliated with a group of psychics that call themselves The Community. They help out psychics in need but feel a lot like a cult. Nate realizes instantly he’s in way over his head, he’s in a city he doesn’t know, and the only person he trusts is Trent. The last thing he wants to do is get Trent dragged into his mess, but everything is well beyond Nate’s control.
Insight and Hard Wired were released very close to each other. Had I read this book months or possibly years later I imagine my perceptions of it could be very different. However; I read these two books almost back to back. I can’t help but think I was primed to look for specific things in Insight I felt to be an issue in Hard Wired. I also couldn’t help but notice significant similarities between Ian and Nate. I expect and accept an author will repeat character traits over time. This was too much too soon, for me. It didn’t help both Texas boys were able to escape to the Mecca that is California with their wonderful California guy. It left me feeling the character was recycled.
Representation and inclusion are addressed in this book. Much as they were in Hard Wired. Personally, I want books to have well developed minority characters. I want people of color to be more than stereotypes, and I want different groups to be treated with respect. It’s a wonderful message to have in a book. I want authors to show me they mean it. Nate and Trent drove through Texas, the deep South, up the Eastern coast, and the first person of color mentioned in the book was Elijah in New York. He’s a gregarious and touchy-feely Hispanic character. He’s also portrayed as being unaware he’s being duped, and possibly trying to sleep his way to influence. Honestly, I’m sort of speechless.
For the most part I found this book to be kind of boring. In many ways that seems to be the curse of first books in a series, something a friend of mine once dubbed, “First In a Series Syndrome.” There is only so much exposition I can take before I just want to know who the killer is. I’ve got an inquiring mind, and all that. In addition to being a lot of exposition, I felt The Community was an attempt to make Scientology creepier. Complete with the hanging of two lanterns. It’s not just brain washing, it’s the for reals kind of mind control! I don’t know if it’s just me, but this made it much less scary. I can be murdered and taken away from my family. That’s scary. The concept I would choose a cult over my family, willingly, is terrifying. Or that I’d have a moment of indecision when trying to figure out right from wrong. It’s easy to be scared of the supernatural, it’s harder to admit we are the monster and we’re in the bed.
Onto the things I liked! Nate isn’t an all powerful psychic. As compared to the rest of the people Nate deals with, he’s on the weaker end of the psychic spectrum. Nate is not an idealized hero. He’s a mess and not overly capable of taking care of himself, but he wants to do the right thing in spite of the dangers to himself. In some ways he reminds me of Jack Burton from “Big Trouble in Little China.” Nate exposes a bunch of problems and fumbles his way through things while other people are the heroes. This is important because asking questions is its own kind of heroism. Exposing rot and corruption is the first step to cleaning it up. Fixing problems is a community effort (ha!).
Many things are as yet unanswered by the end of this book. I have a lot of questions about The Farm, Chase, and the preposition, “to.” I’m a deconstructionist, it was bound to happen. Prepositions have such specific meanings, and Theo’s notes have already been proven to be vague. These are the things I get obsessed about. Prepositions.
In some ways I was disappointed by this book, but mostly I was underwhelmed. Most of my specific problems were things I was looking for. I mean, if you’re going to preach about representation you have to expect people to look at representation. I also think this book suffered because of the exposition required. Hopefully, the pace picks up by the next book.