“Mazarin Blues” is a previously released book by Al Hess. It is the first book in the “Hep Cats of Boise” series. It tells the story of Reed, a closeted Decoist who is dealing with being one of a handful of people to have his Navigator upgraded to a new Beta version.
In this world created by Hess, society is different from what we know now. Yet it is not that unrecognizable. It is the law that people have Navigators installed, referred to as Navs and the citizens as their Pilots. The Navs are made from a nanobot technology that is injected into a person. They two exist together at all times. The Pilot has the Nav’s voice in their head constantly working for them.
It is meant to be an assistance program. They can handle emails, phone calls, home security, anything that people would normally use their smartphone for. Except in the case of the beta’s they have a personality. Reed’s Nav has seemed to gain a level of consciousness. It has begun to call itself Mazarin. A name that was chosen by the fact that Reed likes the color blue. It develops genuine feelings and affection towards Reed, though it does not know how to deal with emotions.
All seems fine, despite Reed hating having a Nav constantly in his thoughts. Things take a dark turn when rumors of Beta Navs going rogue and manipulating their Pilots to commit horrible acts including committing suicide. Now Reed must figure out if the rumors are true and if so, is he in danger.
This book was incredibly enjoyable for me. The Decoist aesthetic helped to pull me into this world. Conformity is the norm in this world created by Hess. But some people subvert that by expressing themselves both in dress style and home aesthetics. They are referred to as Decoist. Society sees them as criminals and the worst part of society.
Reed though, does not like attention on him, so publicly he conforms while unknown to others he wears brightly colored socks. They remain unseen to the world but give him a secret thrill. At his home, he has a room that has a collection of items taken from the 1920s and 30s. He enjoys jazz and physical books, something that is looked down upon. The jazz aesthetic called to me.
It was a treat to see him become more comfortable in his skin. Over time he began to slowly express himself which spoke to me. What is great about this story is that Reed is not the sole protagonist. We also follow his nav, Mazarin, who becomes more self-aware and realize that they want more.
A nice revelation with this character is, as they began to realize their individuality, they embrace being gender-fluid. Mazarin’s default voice setting is female sounding. But it takes on a male voice to please Reed who is gay. Once Mazarin fully forms as a person, they bounce between using the male voice and female voice depending on what they are feeling on a particular day.
Behind the fun characters and aesthetic, there is a mystery in the background with Wave, the company that created the Nav programs. Reed is unwillingly thrown into the attempted cover-up. He doesn’t know who to trust and is constantly fearing for his life. This story keeps you on your seat through to the end. It wraps up quite nicely while leaving the door partway open for the upcoming sequel Sable Dark. Scheduled for release on Jan. 27, 2021.
Mazarin Blues – Order on Amazon
Sable dark – Preorder on Amazon
Al Hess – Follow on Facebook