Book Review #55: XOR AX, AX by Andrei Saygo

Axel Anderson is part genius, part Coca-Cola addict. But he’s also part criminal. Axel hacks for a living, finding bugs in systems and rooting his way through technical security systems. More often than not, he gets away with it!

Until he doesn’t.

When Axel is blackmailed by a mining company called DVC, his life changes—and not for the better. He becomes one-forth of a team of elite professionals on a mission to “steal” a set of jewels that DVC says are important. The rest of the team consists of an ex-military leader, a secretive CIA spy, and a cautious art thief. But any team comes with baggage and often humans are hard to work with, so their missions start to go sideways quickly, and Axel ends up getting involved in way more than he bargained for.

I’ve read and reviewed several of Saygo’s books! I think it’s fair to call myself a fan at this point! Generally speaking, I’ve enjoyed every book he’s written (some more than others, to be fair). This book is no exception.

Saygo has a succinct voice that, by now, I’m able to recognize. It’s simplistic and character-focused, but also descriptive enough that he doesn’t leave the reader wondering. For this particular book, he used a third-person, head-hopping sort of omniscient style, allowing you to really see into each persons mind simultaneously. For some that might be overwhelming, and I was concerned at first too, but Saygo manages to use it to his advantage. For example, he uses Jack (the ex-military team member) to describe the action scenes and the ships (aka referring to things like a Blackhawk when describing a spaceship). Don’t ask me why it works, but it works!!

The premise itself is also fascinating. Let’s see if I can cover it without spoilers. Basically, DVC is in communication with a sentient AI, one that is not of this world. Xor Ax, Ax is a sort of first encounter book in that sense. But the way the alien presents itself is fascinating to me. I cannot say too much or I’ll give it away. Lol

Another thing that really shines in this book is the characterization. It’s what makes the head hopping less overwhelming. Saygo presents us with a massive cast, but the main four are really the central focus. And these four are exceptionally written. It’s easy to tell who’s head you’re in from the first moment you switch, just by little nuances in how they think. Jack is more observant and watches his team members for signs of distress. Axel’s brain works in technical terms and is always ten steps ahead. Yasmine starts out self-concerned and shifts into something much deeper. All this to say, each character has very, very specific attributes and those really shine through in the book. Well done on Saygo’s end.

I generally don’t enjoy thrillers. A tech thriller should be no exception. But, as I type out this review, I can’t remember anything about the novel I didn’t like. Which is odd for me. 😂

Overall, an excellent tech thriller with phenomenal characters and a page-turning plot. I highly recommend if this is your genre of choice.

Memes I Made

Final Ratings

Overall Rating: 4.5/5! Very, very good. Enjoyable!
Pacing: Very fast once you get started.
Intended Audience: Fans of tech thrillers or thrillers in general. Those who don’t mind some sci-fi thrown in to spice things up.
Content Warnings: One scene of attempted assault but quickly dealt with. Mild violence but not written too descriptively. Human trafficking is mentioned a lot in one country they visit.

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