CW: Spoilers for Want, the prequel to Ruse.
Ruse is a continuation of Want, which I’ve written about before. This novel picks up right after Want, where the fallout of their heist against Jin Corp is felt amongst the group in different ways.
All grieving their friend in different ways, all fractured by the loss—they are given little time to cope. When Lingyi flies to Shanghai to helps an estranged childhood friend, the gang becomes embroiled in another corporate plot that centers Jason’s, now a girlfriend of sorts, Daiyu.
This culminates into a mystery with Jin corp somehow at the center, placing Daiyu in a situation where her loyalty and familial bonds are tested. Her father is up to no good yet again, and before the crew is able to heal fully, they must pull together to protect each other and, hopefully, deal another blow to Jin.
The move to Shanghai is compelling and a breath of fresh air (ha!), except not really, as it’s similarly polluted. Jin corp is building a superstructure meant to help with that pollution…. while also making a lot of money, of course. Storefronts and filters that clean the air, as well as new, high-end real estate, means that Jin and his company is poised to more than recoup their losses.
It’s another fun and subversive young adult story for cyberpunk, and, as the cover suggests, it centers some other characters, which was welcome. Lingyi and Iris are a bit more fleshed out as a couple, their dynamics more integral to the story. There are some heart strings being played, their identities, including being a same sex couple, are never performative or fetishized. My only lamentation is not having more time spent with them, in fact, as the story kept jumping back to Jason and Daiyu drama after the initial setup.
Cindy Pon knows her characters well, and they spill onto the page nicely. It’s a page-turner that fits in some critical questions about the environment while maintaining teenage drama and more heists, hijinks, and middle fingers to systemic oppression.