S.B. Divya’s RUNTIME is a superb old-school cyberpunk novella with a vital and youthful energy about it. Following the story of Marmeg, a young runner entered into the Minerva Sierra Challenge, a teched-up mud run of sorts, it’s a fresh take on a suddenly booming sub-genre that tips its hat to classics such as BLADE RUNNER, ROLLERBALL, THE RUNNING MAN and just about every must-see anime out there.
For me, a good scifi story is one that draws you into its world immediately without hitting you with a massive info-dump of new rules to learn. This is particularly important with cyberpunk, where a tech-heavy hand could leave the reader wading through all kinds of science in order to get to anything even resembling a story. RUNTIME succeeds because it doesn’t do that. Set against a dystopian backdrop, it’s primarily invested in its characters and their stories rather than the tech surrounding them, meaning you’ll be jacked in before you know it. Tech-wise, you get what you need as you go, in the same shorthand that the characters use, the story belting along while its world builds up around it. And it’s a beautifully realised and wonderfully unique world at that, with some truly brilliant ideas at its core.
My first dip-of-the-toe into Tor.com’s new range of e-novellas, RUNTIME is one of the best original sci-fis I’ve read in quite a while and, as a debut outing, sets the bar very high indeed for Divya’s next release.