written by David Steffen
“And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead” is one of the Hugo Finalists for the novelette category this year. It was published by Lightspeed, and you can read it here in its entirety or listen to it in audio.
Rhye is a cyborg freelancer working with her partner Rack on whatever jobs they can find that suit their skills. Rack specializes in cyberspace hack-jobs, diving into corporate networks to liberate valuable data. Rhye’s specialty is more on the physical side of things; she is a killing machine with her pistols.
The pair are hired to rescue the son of a mob boss where he’s gotten lost trying to dig information out of a security system. The job goes south in a big way when the mobsters get frustrated at lack of results and shoot Rack through the head before his mind returns from the system. But… he is still in the system, and it’s possible that Rhye might be able to dive in after him and bring him back intact (though without a body to occupy). The mobsters are going to let her do this, intending to get the data they’d been seeking in the first place.
I enjoyed this story. An action-packed cyberpunk rescue attempt into dangerous territory. If you are averse to profanity you’ll probably want to give this one a pass–Rhye is very foul-mouthed, dropping f-bombs all over the story. I found the profanity rather fun, myself. It was part of her character, part of the way she is and cutting it out would’ve made her very different. A badass character to root for, nasty villains to root against, the weird subtextual world of cyberspace, satisfying ending.