Into the BeanStalk

Book One of the Jack: Cyberpunk Series

Young Adult - Sci-Fi
233 Pages
Reviewed on 06/24/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Miche Arendse for Readers' Favorite

A futuristic cyberpunk retelling of a classic fairytale like no other finds Jack, a young woman born missing an arm and a leg, fighting for the survival of her family and herself. Into the BeanStalk by J. Paul Roe follows Jack on her treacherous journey as she tries to pay off her debt to a notorious gang of bikers and save her father from corporate slavery. All the while, it seems something far more sinister lurks above the city Jack calls home.

Into the BeanStalk by J. Paul Roe is an exciting new take on the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk. I didn’t think I would love this book as much as I did, but between the relatable characters and the gritty setting, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. While I usually don’t read cyberpunk books, I can safely say that this one has a familiar but different plotline, descriptive and imaginative world-building, and wonderful characters.

Jack is the kind of protagonist you root for regardless of the trouble she seems to get herself into, and while she may not be perfect, her flaws make her such an endearing character. Her struggles and motivations felt so real that I couldn’t help but become emotionally invested, and by the end of the book, it felt like I had been on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. Into the BeanStalk is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it.

K.C. Finn

Into the BeanStalk is a work of fiction in the science fiction, action, and dystopia subgenres, and forms the opening novel of the Jack: Cyberpunk Series. It is best suited to the general adult and mature YA reading audiences and contains some instances of violence and strong language. Penned by author J. Paul Roe, this exciting and immersive cyberpunk tale introduces us to Jack, a young woman born with physical limitations that have caused her father to sell his soul to the Global Corporation to ensure her survival. Rescuing him from this fate is Jack’s sole goal in life, and so she must do whatever it takes – including climbing a column of light into a clouded city – to overcome her challenges and set things right.

Author J. Paul Roe has developed an absolutely stellar concept for a fairytale retelling that’s like nothing I’ve ever read. I really enjoyed the inventiveness of taking a classic tale like this and throwing it into a dark, dystopian society filled with corporate greed, cybernetic technology, and stunning cinematic descriptive work. I felt immersed in the story right from the first dark vistas of this dangerous place, and that was all the more solidified by the connection we form with our protagonist, Jack. Her unique placement as a disabled hero allows for some really interesting cybernetics and prosthetics to come into play, but none of that is a magical fix, and there’s still a very serious and well-told story about overcoming physical limitations and self-doubt at the novel’s core. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Into the BeanStalk as a novel that delivers everything it promises and more.

Pikasho Deka

Into the BeanStalk is the first book of the Jack: Cyberpunk Series by J. Paul Roe. Set in a futuristic dystopia, the story follows Jaqueline "Jack" Fletcher, a tech whiz-kid working toward rescuing her father from corporate servitude. Born with severe health complications, Jack works for a notorious biker gang to pay off her debts acquired due to her cybernetics implants. However, on her last job, she is forced to infiltrate a kill code that wipes out the biker gang. In her delirious state, Jack sees a mysterious structure rising from the middle of Hope Megacity to the HighHold above. While she is hunted by the mega-corporations ruling the city, Jack inadvertently joins the hacker Zoroaster and his crew, who aim to get their hands on a technology that can change the world. But Jack will have to pay a heavy price.

Author J. Paul Roe delivers an absolute belter of a sci-fi thriller to start this dystopian cyberpunk series. Into the BeanStalk captures your attention and pushes your imagination to the limits. Roe's wordbuilding is simply phenomenal. The setting of Hope Megacity feels like something straight out of Blade Runner. Fast-paced and action-packed, there is not a dull moment in the book. Jack is someone you want to root for. I particularly enjoyed her dynamic with the rest of the members of Z's crew. Roe also seamlessly integrates futuristic sci-fi concepts into the story, with expository scenes to help the reader grasp the content. Overall, a gripping page-turner that sci-fi fans will relish.

Tracy Traynor

Into the Beanstalk is the first in the Jack: Cyberpunk Series by J. Paul Roe and is a riveting, well-plotted, and thoroughly entertaining read. Jacqueline Fletcher, otherwise known as Jack, is a twenty-year-old who’s had to grow up quickly. Born with a defect, she lost an arm and a leg. To give her a chance in life, her father sold himself. She’s determined to pay off his bond, and the only way to do that seems to be working for the Luckies. Jack finds herself falling into one bad situation after the other. All trust goes. She needs to take care of herself if she’s to raise the BioDyne corporate scrip to pay off the bond. When Jack comes to the attention of the psyche-hacker Zoroaster, he pulls her into his web but can she trust him?

Into the Beanstalk is suspenseful and dramatic, an adrenaline-pumping ride. Fully fleshed-out characters that are both interesting and unique drew me into this thrill-a-minute, absorbing read. J. Paul Roe’s plotting is razor-sharp and ingenious. The depth of world-building blew me away and was vivid and rich. Think Matrix. It is atmospheric and generous in its descriptions, and just drips tension, which made it gripping from the start. Jack was on a compelling journey and I was pulled along with her. I was only disappointed that it finished on a cliffhanger, and book two isn’t out yet. I can’t wait to read it. This authentic, fast-paced, action-packed dystopian novel might only be Roe’s second, but I am sure we will see lots more from this highly talented author.

Scott Cahan

Into the Beanstalk by J. Paul Roe begins a new science fiction cyberpunk series. Jack is short for Jacqueline. She’s a twenty-year-old who has lived a rough life but survived on the streets using her technical skills and a “won’t quit” attitude. When the gang she’s been working with is double-crossed, Jack ends up in a high-tech battle between an all-powerful corporation and an underground group of rebels. Something hidden deep within Jack makes her valuable to both sides. Although Jack wants nothing more than to see her father again, she finds trouble at every turn. Soon, it becomes clear; Jack must learn to fight back or suffer much pain, possibly even death.

Into the Beanstalk is exciting, smart, and fun. Fans of cyberpunk will have plenty to enjoy in this book. The author expertly develops a fully functional futuristic world full of scientific gadgets, wild trends, and extreme ways of life that all seem highly possible. The story moves satisfactorily with lots of heart-pounding action and snappy dialogue. Jack is a stellar hero with a perfect balance of inner angst and a strong desire to do the right thing whenever possible. Jack and the gang of rebels she ends up helping are all strong characters, each with a distinct, colorful personality. I had a great time reading Into the Beanstalk, and I look forward to seeing how the conflicts that started in this book will play out in future volumes.