Steele Chronicles

Book review: Stealing Home by Hayden Trenholm

It took me a long time to get around to reading this book. It's been on my to read pile for about a year. As I've mentioned recently, I've started doing most of my reading electronically. In fact, I actually read an ebook version of this, even though I have a paper copy on my desk. Stealing Home book coverStealing Home (Kindle, Kobo) is the third book in the Steele Chronicles, published by Bundoran Press. The series started with Defining Diana, and following Steel Whispers, both of which I've previously reviewed. Through each of these books, I've found that the story becomes tighter, and more focused. While the stories can be read independently, the emotional punch of the third book is diminished if you haven't read the earlier books.

I read this book immediately after reading Robert J Sawyer's novel Red Planet Blues, another science fiction novel with a detective story. It's hard not to draw some comparisons. Stealing Home is much darker and grittier than Red Planet Blues. It draws on somewhat of a post-cyberpunk vibe. It feels much more like Blade Runner. The noir point of view wasn't as obvious reading Stealing Home as it was when I first read Defining Diana, and has been scaled back.

It was easier getting into Red Planet Blues. It has a much wider appeal. Once Trenholm gets your attention though, you get sucked into the story. Stealing Home seems to have higher, more personal stakes. Frank Steele seems more human, more relatable. Steele is far from a perfect person. His scars, both emotional and physical, are front and centre. This is part of what makes the story so very interesting.

Stealing Home is a complex story. There are several subplots that weave together, wrapping up several threads from the earlier novels. Like some of Sawyer's novels, one of the themes Trenholm explores is that of uploaded consciousness, something sought after as the ultimate goal of many of the Borg: the Hard Upload into the cloud. It's a kind of cultural myth, a promised homeland for those seeking to cut all ties to the biological body.

The world is a dark place, with large corporations fighting proxy wars across the planet, controlling governments, playing their pawns to gain advantage over others. It's a world full of prejudice, not altogether unlike our own.

Trenholm uses several other themes as well, namely politics and ecological scarcity. Hayden has edited an anthology of short fiction exploring conflict based in ecology, Blood and Water, and is working on editing Strange Bedfellows, a science fiction anthology of future politics, which was a successful Indiegogo crowd funded project.