Deal With the Devil: Didn’t distinguish itself enough

Deal With the Devil by Kit RochaDeal With the Devil by Kit RochaDeal With the Devil by Kit Rocha

If I’m told that a new series is titled MERCENARY LIBRARIANS, that sets up certain expectations in my mind — namely, that librarian-ing is going to feature prominently in the introductory novel, or at least be a driving force behind the primary plot. And while the treasure-trove of the Rogue Library of Congress is how the heroine of Deal With the Devil (2020) is enticed into making a deal with the leader of a mercenary squad known as the Silver Devils, Kit Rocha spends far more time and attention on set pieces cobbled together from any handful of post-apocalyptic dystopian movies and television shows.

Furthermore, Nina’s job title doesn’t encompass her actual responsibilities: she’s more of a community organizer, and from all evidence, a damn good one. In her corner of Atlanta, she and her friends Maya and Dani ensure that people have access to real books, food, clothes, clean water and electricity, and just about anything else that can be traded or earned. The trio aren’t just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, either; consider it revenge/penance for the time they each spent at the Franklin Center for Genetic Research, a hugely wealthy and sinister organization that molded Nina into a hyper-charismatic leader who can dodge bullets and turned Dani into a terrifyingly lethal assassin who can’t feel pain. Maya can remember literally everything she hears, which is convenient whenever the plot calls for it, but she’s also skilled in creative murder, because the TechCorps executives who hire assistants like Maya are extremely paranoid.

So what brings these women out of their comfort zone and coerces them to go on a road trip with notorious killers? The former captain of the Silver Devils, Garret Knox, is stuck between a rock and a hard place in that one of his crew, a biohacker, has been taken hostage by unknown forces. On top of that, the Silver Devils went rogue from their Protectorate leash-holders, and now it’s only a matter of time before their biometric implants stop enhancing their lives and, instead, end them. Their medic is already dead, and now Knox’s remaining men — a sniper, a charmer, and a tech expert — want to disappear into the wilds and live their remaining days in peace. The biohacker can do her best to circumvent the implants’ kill-switches, but her kidnapper wants Knox to hand over Nina in exchange, and the easiest way for him to get Nina to agree to come on a road trip up to Chattanooga is to “lie by telling the truth” about tracking down the Rogue Library of Congress, fortified and hidden away at some point previously in the twenty-first century.

The Kit Rocha writing team

The Kit Rocha writing team

Deal With the Devil focuses mostly on the eleven-day road trip north from Atlanta to Chattanooga, with a few stops along the way in order to establish and equalize the fighting prowess of Nina’s trio and Knox’s quartet. There’s a fallen-tree ambush, an encounter with a madman and his cage-fighting rig, a sweet little town with home-brewed drinks and space for people to dance, and lots of opportunities for heated glances to turn into sex. The two groups spar often, both verbally and physically, and even with the Devils’ superior size, they’re regularly outwitted or outmatched by Nina’s crew. Banter between the two factions was entertaining-but-expected, and overall character development feels like an afterthought when compared to the detail given to fight scenes and bedroom antics.

It’s often hard to get a sense for how post-apocalyptic this world is supposed to be, and frequent vague mentions of “the Flares” or various shadowy TechCorps activities made me wonder if this series is supposed to be linked up with some of Rocha’s other work in which backstory and world-building have already been established. Internal memos scattered throughout the novel indicate that this installment takes place late in the year 2086, and maps at the front of the book show an apparent balkanization of the formerly United States. (The inclusion of the memos is an odd choice, as once you figure out who the code designations refer to, no information is provided that isn’t covered elsewhere in the text through dialogue or exposition.)

Ultimately, Deal With the Devil didn’t do enough to capture my attention during any reading session or do enough to stand out from the stack of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction arriving on my doorstep this year. It was an entertaining if not engaging read, as easy to pick up as it was to put down, and though a sequel has already been announced for possible publication in 2021, I doubt I’ll be reading The Devil You Know.

Published in July 2020. Deal with the Devil is Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha. Nina is an information broker with a mission―she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America. Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive. They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process… Or they could do the impossible: team up. This is the first book in a near-future science fiction series with elements of romance.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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One comment

  1. Deal with the Devil? I’ll just rewatch LUCIFER, thanks.

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