Sunday, July 5, 2009

Book Review: Street Empathy

Street: Empathy
by Ryan A. Span
Gryphonwood Press (February 2008)

Street: Empathy is a science fiction (cyberpunk) novel that is both fast-paced and action-packed. It follows Gina, a person who sells her mind-reading services to any individual or corporate representative who wants them, much like a prostitute of today. The main drawback is the inevitable result of using the drug which allows one to read the minds of others. Eventual insanity.

A mysterious deal gone bad rockets Gina into a deadly cat and mouse game, one where she doesn’t know the stakes or understand the rules—other than getting caught is a bad thing. Only her wits, quick learning and a bit of luck keeps her one step ahead of the bad guys (sometimes), all the while she strives to figure out exactly who involved is her friend, enemy, or simply using her.

The world and its depth Ryan Span created to tell Gina’s story holds together well, avoiding the inconsistencies (or at least questionable logic) one sometimes encounters when reading science fiction novels containing future dystopian societies.

What I liked:
+ The protagonist Gina is a likeable character that I could root for to succeed, or at least survive.

+ Supporting characters (both main and bit part) that added to the tale, each with their own mysterious past and individual goals that don’t always mesh with Gina’s.

+ The twists and turns the plot took—things often didn’t go right for Gina. Sometimes they went very, very wrong.

+ The passing reference to Looney Tunes’ Marvin the Martian.

What I disliked:
- The language, while in character, can at times be pretty rough (Mainly a lot of F bombs).

Beyond the occasional cursing, I only came across one scene in the novel where I couldn’t visualize the action. That shouldn’t be enough to deter any reader from picking up a copy of Street: Empathy and enjoying the read. Plus, one could chalk up any concerns to my biases and perception (or lack there of).

On a final note, Street: Empathy was originally a serialized novel, still online, so you can check it out at to see if it’s something you really like. And, you can get into the second novel as it’s being written.


  1. This sounds good?

    And don't real people who are struggling to survive in gritty settings use profanity?

  2. Stephen Hines,

    "This sounds good?" I enjoyed reading Street: Empathy and pointed out what I thought good about it. There were a few minor conserns from my perspective, but if it sways you against reading, that's part of why I put them in there.

    As far as the language, it didn't stop me from reading, but it was common enough to point out to potential readers. As indicated, the language was used in character.

    Readers can always use the link to the novel posted (as Street: Empathy is an online serial) to get a good taste for it.