by Kimberly Unger
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Pub Date 12 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 08 Oct 2022
In her breakout technothriller, virtual reality expert Kimberly Unger has created the iconic, badass, cyberpunk heroine that you desperately need: Eliza McKay. McKay is disgraced underground hacker who is just trying to take back her career one dangerous job at a time. But when her latest contract throws her into the middle of a corporate power struggle, she finds herself fighting for her life in both the real and digital worlds.
“Cyberpunk fans won’t want to miss this.”
Eliza McKay is, by extreme necessity, a low-profile Extractionist. McKay is an expert in the virtual reality space where minds are uploaded as digital personas. When rich or important people get stuck in the Swim for reasons that are sleazy, illegal, or merely unlucky—it’s her job to quietly extract them. And McKay’s job just got a lot more dangerous.
After McKay repels an attack on her Swim persona, hired thugs break into her house to try to hack her cybernetic implants directly. Meanwhile, the corporate executive she was hired to rescue from VR space is surprisingly reluctant to be extracted. Something is lurking in the Swim, and some very powerful people will stop at nothing to keep it secret. This job might be the big break McKay has been waiting for to reboot her career—if she can survive long enough to beat the hackers at their own game.
In The Extractionist, virtual reality and gaming expert Unger (Nucleation) has created an unforgettable cyberplayground where the rich still make their own rules, but a skilled operator remains the wildcard.
A Note From the Publisher
Gizmodo's July New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books
“Unger (Nucleation) makes hacking come alive in this fast-paced techno-thriller centered on the Swim, a virtual reality accessed by uploading a ‘persona,’ or a copy of the users mind, then downloading it again to retain the memories of the experience. Eliza McKay relies on her quick thinking and the computer system wired into her brain to make a living extracting people who’ve gotten stuck in the Swim. When the government hires McKay to extract agent Mike Miyamoto, it appears to be a normal job—except Mike’s in the Swim on a criminal investigation, and what he’s discovered has changed him so much that his persona refuses to reintegrate into the self he left behind. McKay must race the clock to extract him—but she’s not the only one who wants what Mike knows, and her adversaries are willing to go to any lengths to stop McKay from reaching him first. VR programmer Unger mines her expertise to create all too believable scenarios and creative solutions, and the novel’s at its best in the vivid, evocative descriptions of how hacking feels to a mind fully immersed in VR. The story dances between two worlds just as real as each other, pulling the reader along to an explosive conclusion. Cyberpunk fans won’t want to miss this.”
“In a future where people have computers wired into their brains, programmers have gone well beyond virtual reality and created a place called The Swim, where the virtual becomes reality. Eliza McKay is an extractionist who pulls out people who have gone too deep and can no longer reconcile mind and body. She is trying to put her life and career back together after a disastrous experiment got her security clearance pulled. Her newest job seems like a simple extraction, but when the man she’s hired to extract refuses to go and warns her about a member of his team, she realizes there is a lot more going on. Soon, goons are showing up at her home, and the hacker is getting hacked. She’s no longer sure who she can trust: the man she was hired to extract, the secretive government employees who hired her, the tech genius who claims to need her help, or even The Swim itself. VERDICT Unger (Nucleation), a game designer and VR programmer by day, delivers an edge-of-your-seat technothriller with a refreshingly relatable protagonist.”
“The Extractionist reads like a cybernetic thriller, with lots of danger and double crosses. The Swim feels like a character all its own, with plenty of detail to help visualize what it might be like to explore an abstract, immersive online world. There’s a small cast of characters that helps McKay as she gets in and out of trouble; Spike, an artificial intelligence that McKay helped create, is a particular standout and serves as a friendly foil to our heroine. Recommended for fans of Annalee Newitz, Neal Stephenson, and of course, William Gibson.”
“We need more heroines like Eliza McKay, who are tough enough and smart enough to withstand the convergence of raw emotion and technology.”
—Sande Chen, video game writer, The Witcher
“Expertly harnesses the author’s deep immersive knowledge of current and extrapolative technology to provide a comprehensive and realistic view of the future of the Internet, the Swim, and the future of nanotechnology. The novel is ably centered and grounded around a complex and well-drawn protagonist.”
—Paul Weimer, SFF reviewer and critic
“Unger writes with the ease of familiarity with challenging technical material, so that even if I couldn’t explain what was happening, I knew she could. The sureness of an author’s voice can carry us into worlds and situations we’ve never experienced for ourselves. Unger’s work is cutting-edge science fiction.”
—Deborah J. Ross, author of The Seven-Petaled Shield
“Our heroine is a business consultant, but we live in her cyborg brain, we see every detail through her augmented eyes, and the future world she haunts is crammed with invention to the point of psychedelia. I quite enjoyed this.”
—Bruce Sterling, author of Schismatrix
“Kimberly Unger reimagines cyberpunk from the ground up to deliver a smart, fully immersive thriller.”
—Wil McCarthy, author of Rich Man’s Sky and the Queendom of Sol series
“Kimberly Unger's The Extractionist is next-generation science fiction. It fuses cyberpunk attitude with diamond-hard science and alarming plausibility. Unger is one to watch.”
—James L. Cambias, author of The Godel Operation
“A fast paced and complex tale of corporate and governmental intrigue, Unger has given the world another winner.”
—Joseph Karpierz, MT Void
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Unger’s book and would highly recommend it. I would go so far as to say, it could be worth presenting to your bookclub.”
Praise for Nucleation
Washington Post Gift Guide selection
UK Guardian Gift Guide selection
2020 Den of Geek Top Sci-Fi Books
“This debut novel is recommended for fans of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon (2003) and Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, as well as for readers who like their cutting-edge technology with a bit of danger on the side.”
“Science fiction fans will be captivated by Unger’s smart, plausible vision of the future of space travel, especially the elegant solution of utilizing quantum entanglement to communicate across light years.”
“This smart, gripping debut weaves technology, embodiment, and corporate espionage into a tense vision of the future that readers won’t be able to put down.”
—Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of Ascension
“If Grisham was a better wordsmith and chose to write hard sf thrillers, it would look a lot like Kimberly Unger’s gripping Nucleation.
—Charles Gannon, author of the Caine Riordan series.
“Nucleation delivers top-notch suspense.”
—Juliette Wade, author of Mazes of Power
“I picked up Nucleation expecting a standard space opera. What I got was a thriller that kept me occupied for days.”
Author tour and appearances to include Awesome Con (Washington, DC); New York Comic Con; Dragoncon (Atlanta); the World Science Fiction convention (Chicago); Nordic Game (Sweden); EGX London; Melbourne Games Week (Australia); the Tokyo Game Show; Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle); Avid Bookshop (San Francisco); San Francisco Writers Conference; the SF in SF Reading Series (San Francisco); Baycon (San Mateo, CA); San Diego Comic Con; and the Portland Book Festival
Social media rollout to include blogs, radio, and podcasts; author and publisher push on pop culture and science fiction outlets
Review mailings to leading trade, science fiction, and thriller publications; ARCs available via NetGalley, Edelweiss, and Goodreads
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 22 members
In a world in which people upload their minds into virtual reality, things sometimes go awry and they get stuck in “the Swim.” Enter Eliza McKay, freelance Extractionist. Highly skilled in navigating virtual reality, thanks to a combination of experience, native talent, and extensive implanted hardware, she’s the go-to specialist for difficult retrieval cases. Now she’s on assignment for a government agency, trying to preserve the investigation results of an agent’s digital persona gone missing in the Swim. One thing after another goes wrong, and soon she’s faced with a choice of pulling the agent out without what he’s learned or having to try ever more risky strategies. Then thugs break into her house and try to hack her cybernetic implants. And something dangerous is lurking in the Swim.
Like Unger’s debut novel, Nucleation, The Extractionist features vivid and highly imaginative hard science fiction world-building. I’m not a tech person or familiar with virtual reality, but the characters and situations were compelling enough to keep me reading, and eventually the internal consistency made sense to me. The story is full of fascinating details, like the need to replace neurotransmitter chemicals after a prolonged VR session. Unger writes with the ease of familiarity with challenging technical material, so that even if I couldn’t explain what was happening, I knew she could. The sureness of an author’s voice can carry us into worlds and situations we’ve never experienced for ourselves. Unger’s work is cutting-edge science fiction. I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next!
I liked that the author Kimberly Unger is a virtual reality expert, as I think it added a unique element to the story. The genre of technothriller has received a great new story. I enjoyed getting to know the main characters Eliza McKay, she was a really interesting character. I enjoyed the thriller elements in the book and was invested in what was going on.
"That snap freed her. McKay was whole again, standing in the vault of her own mind. She cut the connection to the splat drive and started shutting down every unnecessary program, feeling the quick surges as more and more processing power returned to her control. She opened her eyes and turned her attention back to the carnage in the real-world room."
It's kinda a scary concept for a technothriller, and I enjoyed reading this book.
The Extractionist is a great story. In this world virtual realty has merged with life to create a separate world called the Swim. In this world, hackers reign supreme and one of the best is Eliza McKay, who specializes in extracting people lost in the Swim. This time, her client's extraction goes off the rails in a big time way. Excellent world building, felt like the Swim was real. Good action - very well-written. Ms. Unger's stories always goes to the top of my reading list.
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