Shadowboxer (1997)

Whereupon The Terminus Experiment was an awful book through and through, Shadowboxer is merely a big disappointment. It has two big flaws, that completely made me go sour on it, despite showing many strengths. What Shadowboxer had was well written and intriguing characters, who were the usual assortment of Shadowrunners from all walks of life, and a story that took place in a rather fresh corner of the Shadowrun world (Miami). The plot was pretty typical fare, but fun nonetheless and involved pirates, so a good mix of the conventional and the original. And the overall writing sucked you in easily.

So, if it had all that, why did the book fail. First reason, Pollotta killed off the main viewpoint character of the book. This felt completely gimmicky (look what I did, I defied reader expectations by killing off the main character) and counterproductive (I wanted to read Two Bears story, not that of his runner team after his death). Furthermore, Shadowboxer is the only Shadowrun novel that had a dwarf as the main character, one who I felt was strong as a character in his own right and not just as a token dwarf. And then Pollotta went and killed him. Really irked me.

But that’s not the worst thing about Shadowboxer. That was the completely WTF-ending. It could be explained away as just another gimmick (he did it again, defied reader expectations), but honestly this felt more like Pollotta had written himself into a corner and just shoddily threw something together. After infiltrating a deep sea base of the enemy, the Shadowrunners ended up in a situation where they couldn’t escape alive after all. So what did they do? They joined the bad guys. At least a last stand with all of them dying I could have taken. But this felt like a complete cop-out.

That said, the writing is good and I would recommend the book if it weren’t for the ending and killing Two Bears early on.