Travel Documents 75: The Hammer Falls

The Hammer Falls

 Travis Heermann 

 Link To Buy

The Dust Cover Copy

He made a deal to get back his glory. The cost of betrayal is a price on his head…

Horace “The Hammer” Harkness refuses to give up, despite pushing his genetically modified physique past the point of regenerating from another death in the arena.

Washed up, desperate for a return to glory, he borrows cash from a man he believes is a Russian loan shark to rebuild his body for a major comeback. But when his gamble pays off, using the prize money to pay for a sick boy’s gene re-sequencing is as good as signing his own death warrant.

He soon discovers that the “loan shark” was none other than the Number Two man of a global cyber-syndicate. Forced to go on the run, Harkness joins a traveling gladiator roadshow where he can lay low until he figures out what to do. But when mobsters threaten the woman he loves, he realizes there’s only one way to finally settle the score.

Has Harkness got what it takes to hammer the entire Russian cyber-mob?

The Hammer Falls is a hard-hitting standalone cyberpunk novel. If you like gritty heroes, barbaric adversaries, high-tech weapons, and high-stakes action, you’ll love Travis Heermann’s gladiatorial thrill-ride.

The Deets

The Scene

World building

Near future: just far out enough to be interesting. Just close enough to be unnerving. That’s what the best in the genre manages to be. By that criteria, ‘Hammer’ is right in there with the best. It’s a tired old world, this one; yeah, there’s new tech. But there’s still a hard slog for anyone living in it. Everybody knows the dice are loaded, as the old song goes. This book captures the gritty, quiet resolve of rust belt towns and blue-collar bars everywhere; that hint of hope, that taint of despair. And always, the certain need that you’ll need to get up tomorrow and get your ass to work.
In that world, Horace is one of the working men’s gods: a pit fighter in the ultra-savage upgrade to WWF. All the show of modern wrestling, all the ferocity, a lot more blood. Now that regeneration is possible, fighters don’t just flirt with Death: they go all the way to first base these days. And the Hammer is a god among fighters.
This world is engrossing, familiar in all the right places and just new enough to be interesting. Mix that with the author’s deft use of cinematic tropes in scene design, and you’ve got a winner.

The Crowd

Characterization

There’s a lot of heart in these characters: Harkness is a surprisingly complex and intelligent man who likes to play on the ‘big old fighter’ tropes to his advantage, but is just as likely to think circles around his opponents as he is to punch them into next week.

Correction. First he’ll think circles around them. Then he’ll punch them into next week.

He’s teamed up with some great new riffs on classic character archetypes: the sassy teen who knows her way around a fight, the genius hacker who, in this case, is a comfy middle aged mom named Bunny who won’t use actual curse words, and the good old striptease dancer who in this case is a clever mom with two kids and a real talent for costume design. You can almost see the author wink as he shows you the trope all laid out, and then pulls the proverbial tablecloth out from under it, without tipping over a single glass.

Surrounding the main characters is a great class of neo-noir hopeful heroes, amoral villains with the occasional truly evil bastard hiding among them, and plain old working people just trying to get somewhere, some day.

The Lingo

Writing Style

Snappy and sly, Heermann’s style harks back to a lot of the good noir writing I went through in college, and some of the best classic stuff I got into as a teen. It moves at a steady clip, letting up on the action just long enough for solid and believable character development. I particularly appreciated the commentary on the art and craft of performing physically for an audience, and on the work inherent in any public-facing career. As I said above, Heermann has a real touch of the screen writer in his craft, and it really brings out action scenes that tend to clunk along in other authors’ hands. I generally get bored during shoot-the-baddies scenes, but I was right there with Hammer through every pulse-pounding action piece. That shows some serious skill.

The Moves

Plot

The story, like a good action, is deceptively simple. It starts with ‘oh shit,’ moves onto ‘oh fuck what did I get myself into’ and through ‘Jesus Christ!’ into ‘alright, it’s Hammer Time’. The ending is surprisingly uplifting, and all around it was a great read.

Overall Rating

A solid, thoroughly readable adventure and a valuable exploration of what it means to have something worth living for. Definitely something you want to pick up.