"Junkyard Cats" is a new departure for Faith Hunter. She's freed herself from the super-nat saturated universe that both the Jane Yellowrock and the Soulwood series take place in; moved from Urban Fantasy to Science Fiction and broken with the tradition of bringing out the print version first and gone straight (and only) to audiobook.
I think all these changes are good.
It seemed to me that I could taste the energy and excitement freeing herself from the complex world she built and populated in thirteen Jane Yellowrock novels and four Soulwood novels (with a fifth being published this summer) gave to Faith Hunter. This novella crackles with energy and is stuffed with ideas.
Faith Hunter has embraced Science Fiction in a way that makes it her own. There's the same level of weapon's lust that was a constant in the Jane Yellowrock series but THESE weapons are truly scary. Set a few decades in the future and with the intervention of scavenged alien tech to speed things along, Faith Hunter has imagined AI Hive-Mind directed Nano-technology-enabled weaponry that is both plausible and innovative. Then she's rolled in biker culture with the Motorcycle Clubs becoming a line of defence against the invading machines sent by the Chinese. Finally, she's come up with a kick-ass heroine, this time one trying to live a quiet life, who is no longer quite human (nothing supernatural - think tech mutation) and a pride of junkyard cats with enhanced sentience and the ability to share what they're seeing with each other.
So: great weapons, biker culture, more than human female fighter and spookily smart cats. What more could I want? How about two or three major threats, a pressure cooker deadline, dizzyingly rapid and complex worldbuilding, a full-on assault and a huge body-count. Yep, I got all of those too.
The icing on the cake was the decision to go straight to audible. Normally, I have to wait a while after the publication of a Faith Hunter book before I can have Khristine Hvam's narration bring it alive for me. This time, I was able to start the book the day that it was published.
I enjoyed "Junkyard Cats", consuming it in two days and finishing it with a "Wow, that was good* feeling that was rapidly followed by, "When do I get more?"
I would have prefered it if this had been a full-length novel (the audiobook is five hours long (so about 140 -150 pages). I enjoyed the intensity of the novella but I'd have appreciated a little time to breathe and to get to know the characters a bit more. There were also a couple of clumsy I'm-being-briefed-on-the-war-by-my-computer bits of info-dumping that might have been avoided with a little more space BUT these are minor things. This is a remarkable, action-driven, near-future Science Fiction story and I want more of it.