‘Enigma Black’ by Sara Furlong Burr is a high-powered urban, science fiction story that includes romance, heart break, action and even cause to stop and think. Just how easily would Americans give up their freedom if they thought it were the price they had to pay for safety?
Set in a future time when a series of horrific terrorist attacks wrack the nation, Celaine, the survivor of one such attack, is given the opportunity to actually achieve the vengeance she promised the rest of her family after they died in the attack. A bunch of scientists working for a secret government agency can turn her into a super hero, but she has to leave her old life behind. That means walking out on her boyfriend the night he proposes. It breaks both their hearts.
Her new life, after an operation, consists of fighting training in simulated environments with her super-hero partner as they train to catch the Man in Black who is responsible for the attacks. Eventually, she gets some real live action and discovers that it takes more than muscle to defeat the killer of her family. Is this guy even human?
The president has used the existence of the Man in Black as an excuse to bring in a curfew and institute border checks between the states. The two helmeted superheros, (if one dies, they replace them with a new version) give the populous hope, but they haven’t been able to stop the attacks. The next step is marshal law, but some people are asking questions. Will the American people stand for it? Do they have a choice?
Burr’s characterisation, plotting and pacing are all excellent. If you buy this book, you’re in for a good read, except for two points. One is that some aspects of the story are pretty unbelievable. It’s science fiction, so I’ll suspend my disbelief in the unlikely science behind the superhero transformation, but even speculative fiction must make character actions believable. Even putting aside the unlikelihood of a young woman leaving her perfect boyfriend for a very dodgy promise not even backed up by paperwork, Celaine turns into a fighter very quickly. Skill is needed in fighting and Furr didn’t give her heroine the kind of training or the time required to make her sudden emergence as a fighter entirely believable. Why not have given her character some self-defence training before they picked her to be the next superhero? It would have made a lot more sense. But I forgave that too because the book kept me turning pages, and the writing took me right into the scene.