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SPSFC Quarterfinalist Review: The Clarity of Cold Steel by Kevin Wright

When I think of sci-fi, I usually think of space stories as I like to call them (to horrify die-hard sci-fi readers and watchers). Or at least I used to. I read the occasional dystopian book, like The Hunger Games, but never really thought of them as science fiction. After receiving review copies for Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair and In the Orbit of Sirens by TA Bruno, I finally decided to take a closer look at the genre and make more of an effort to read from there. Funnily enough, most of them did end up being space stories! I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the following months trying out more and more (Hello Azura Ghost, The Last Gifts of the Universe, and The Stars Within!) and excitedly signed up for SPSFC when they were looking for more judges. The competition of course has lots of space stories as well. I really loved Iron Truth, the winner of the first SPSFC.

But surprisingly, half of the books that my team ended up moving forward as Quarterfinalists are NOT space stories. The Clarity of Cold Steel by Kevin Wright is one of those books. Before I get to the review though, let me give you some info on the book again in case you haven’t seen my previous post about it.

The Clarity of Cold Steel

Author: Kevin Wright

Pub day: March 01, 2017

Length: 288 pages

Available on KU and for purchase here!


The kid disappeared two days ago. Missing. Abducted. Murdered. What have you…

Just another in an endless line of indigent kids wrung from the dregs of the Machine City.

And it’s my job to find him.

Me. Avinash Singh, detective extraordinaire. Probably you ain’t heard of me. Not if you run the straight and narrow and ply the right side of the tracks. Cause me? I ply the other.

Two days missing…Two long days in the Machine City, last bastion of mankind in all its fallen glory. Where the sum total of life’s cheaper than in part.

I hope I find the kid. By God, I do. But if I can’t find all of him, I pray I find none.


In the beginning I claimed that this book actually had more of a fantasy feeling rather than sci-fi but I’m not entirely happy with that description anymore now that I’ve finished it. Maybe a little bit of urban fantasy if anything but the steampunk and apocalyptic feel definitely took over eventually. I don’t read a lot of detective stories, especially in the SFF genre, so I was surprised to find myself glued to my kindle at multiple points in the story. The chapters’ lengths also really lent themselves to the whole “just one more” at night before going to sleep finally as well as the author’s ability to choose the right times to stop those chapters on tiny cliffhangers throughout.

Organ trading is the main theme in this book and I can’t say that I’ve ever read anything like that before. It was in parts fascinating as well as horrifying. I really appreciated how the main character worked his way through the system for both himself as well as the object of his investigation, having multiple reasons to find out what was going on and how to survive in his world. At the same time though, I was also a bit disappointed by his previous lack of knowledge about these matters as well. If the organ trade and trafficking is really as rampant as this novel made it seem, then how come he didn’t know at least a bit more about it as a private investigator? This also wasn’t the only inconsistency I felt about him. The storytelling very much gave the impression that he didn’t have much money yet he was able to fund what I would assume are big money purchases, such as enough bombs to do… something I don’t want to spoil. A little bit more explanation there would’ve been appreciated and could’ve fixed those doubts. The book is rather short in general but while I would’ve liked more knowledge in some areas (What’s an untouchable? Why are they untouchable? How do other people know they’re untouchable?), overall that did lend itself to a rather smooth and quick read through, especially since the pace was pretty rapid with a mostly linear plot.

It did manage to take me off guard in how it ended. I appreciate it when a conclusion doesn’t have a clear black and white answer or good vs evil. When a character has to make hard decisions and figure out how to live with them. I also appreciated the humor that was sprinkled throughout but sometimes that did take a bit away from the seriousness that some situations warranted. The MC, despite some flaws, felt pretty fleshed out even for such a short novel (compared to the chonkers I often read) but in contrast, the villain felt rather flat and predictable. As a rooter for villainy in my reading, I find a multi-layered villain important to the enjoyment of my books so that was a little bit of a disappointment.

This ended up being a lot longer-winded than I expected. I am apparently in ramble mode right now. So for those that prefer a TLDR for this book — a quick read with multiple pros and cons that told a story that I haven’t quite heard before with the kind of topic that allows for multiple layers of exploration as the author has shown here.

This little weight lifter is 10 months already!

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