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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Blackshade Machine by William D Latoria is a science fiction dystopian novel and the first book in the Original Design series. William Blackshade is a respected high-ranking colonel in the Candaerica military, the name given in a futuristic combination of most of North America. Technology is at its historic peak and at this moment an alien race makes first contact in New Mexico. This is obviously critical as any move perceived as threatening or untrustworthy on either side could lead to cataclysmic fallout, with mankind probably not faring as well in its outcome. Blackshade is cautiously optimistic, but it is difficult to remain completely objective when the chatter surrounding you instills doubt and provides some good reasoning on questions that have no clear answer—even when some are literally scrolling across a forehead.
There is a great deal of trust that goes into beginning a new science fiction series and, I admit, I wasn't entirely sold on The Blackshade Machine when it crossed my path the first time. It sounded overly simplistic on account of it being a first contact story and, honestly, the renaming of the US/Canada/Mexico takeover as 'Candaerica' wasn't exactly doing it any favors. However, upon first contact with the novel, I found that William D Latoria had a few author tricks up his sleeve and they eclipsed my expectations quickly. The standout is the creativity of the first contact itself, and the state of the States when it happens. Even though North America was already connected geographically, there is something super Pangaea-esque in it formally becoming one. Blackshade is an intriguing character and his evolution from Colonel to Ambassador is a great arc. He's flawed and likable. It's the wit that makes the reading fun. The writing is clean and engrossing, the details are all there without turning into information dumps, and there is an authenticity to a meltdown on social media that would 100% happen in real life. Overall, this is a great start to a new series and absolutely worth putting your trust in.