Cyberpunk 2077: No Coincidence By Rafał Kosik
Cyberpunk 2077: No Coincidence By Rafał Kosik
Orbit books, hardback £18.99
Reviewed by Nadya Mercik
Novels tied to games can be tricky. Unless you know the world and are a fan, stepping into the story can be a bit tough. However, in this tied-in novel, Rafał Kosik, one of the most influential Polish science fiction writers, did a wonderful job of unfolding the multilayered, intricate world of Night City. Whether you played every side quest or are just a Cyberpunk 2077 newbie, what you are definitely going to find is an intriguing, immersive story which toys with you as a reader, taking you all around until it throws a wow-ending onto you.
The narrative is built in such a way that we receive a mosaic of snapshots, from the past and present, of a number of characters, none of which give us a definitive clue as to where this is all going until the very last stages of the book. These bits are connected by the overall theme of a heist, or should I say a chain of heists, that keep bringing the characters together, and some of them go really wrong. It’s not just the repercussions of failure that kept me on tenterhooks, but the ethereal sensation that there is something bigger to all this (and there was!)
A person named Warden gathers a group of seemingly unrelated people to steal a container from Militech. They are blackmailed into taking up the job, though none of them are experts in the heist business. The team includes a corporate woman, a strip dancer, a ripperdoc, a rather young yet ambitious netrunner, and a person who looks like he had some combatant experience and straight away declares that he should have died seven years ago. Not only are they a weird mix, but Warden is also forbidden by his employer to dispose of any of them. Surprisingly, their first heist succeeds – the mysterious container is delivered, the team disperses, and we dive into their personal stories. But the characters keep gravitating towards each other and end up together once again, as another heist is planned.
Rafał Kosik engages a whole swarm of different points of view, thus creating a vibrant and versatile picture of Night City. Not only do we see our ‘Cyberpunk Six’ dealing with their problems, but we also have the story of a Night City police officer, a Maelstromer ganger and his associates, and some others. With such amount of characters, it might at first seem difficult to empathise with all of them, but each personal story had something to catch me – all the characters share a strong desire to achieve something, be it for themselves or for someone they care about. In fact, they are all such strong personalities that, as a reader, I had no problem jumping from one point of view to another, even before I learnt the name of the character whose life I was diving into.
In his interviews, Kosik said that having an already established world allowed him to work on human interactions and build deeper characterisation. You can definitely feel it in the story. The decision to introduce so many characters is also justified. There is no way we would see the intricacies and the consequences of this harsh world had we not had characters from different classes and layers of this society.
With such a population of characters, it is no surprise that Kosik introduces many interesting themes. The world of Cyberpunk is very much about survival, no matter what level you find yourself, and it was interesting to see how different characters deal with that. The corporate negotiations led up in the Arasaka tower gave me some vibes of Richard Morgan’s Market Forces. The revenge motif in the story is set against the idea of taking care of someone just because, as a kid, you were taken in by strangers. There is an attempt to understand memories, feelings and consciousness, which might seem alien to you, especially through the eyes of the team’s netrunner, Albert. There is also a conversation about a person’s relationship to their body. In my opinion, all the body modification and the netrunners’ connection to the net serve as a good metaphor for the bonds humans try and need to build in society. Such a cruel and pragmatic place like Night City cannot exist without turning humans into tools, but how far can it go, and is there a way out?
You can dive into all those planes or enjoy a dynamic heist story with an unpredictable ending. You will see some of the game locations and even meet characters from the game, but you can also enjoy it without any prior knowledge, unpacking a matryoshka of stories. Whatever you choose, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The characterisation, the enthralling world, dense plotting and unpredictable ending set this story apart, in my opinion. Now, I wish we had more of Kosik’s books translated into English.