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Literature / Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

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Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a 2018 science fiction detective novel by Dora M. Raymaker.

In 26th century Red City on the planet Cassiopeia Prime, people with K-Syndrome work as Operators, programming the quantum computers that run the city, which only they can operate thanks to their unique neurology. Their disabilities are used to justify institutionalizing and enslaving them. Four years ago the Integration Law was passed, granting autonomy to Operators who can prove that they can live independently. Operators who pass the test enjoy a precarious freedom that could be taken away if they show any sign of weakness.

Hoshi Archer is an emancipated Operator who works as a private investigator. When three members of her caste turn up murdered, she sets out to solve the mystery.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit contains examples of:

  • Advert-Overloaded Future: Corporate chip readers that float outside shopping towers bombard pedestrians with personalized ads based on their ID chips.
  • Alien Sky: Cassiopeia Prime has two moons, silver Cepheus and red Phoenix. In the daytime, the sky is greenish-blue.
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: Despite the criminals Hoshi consorted with in the process of saving Red City, and her refusal to name them to law enforcement, City Coordinator Corstenza is so impressed with her service to the city that a new law is passed. Now if a civilian's been of special service to the RCPD, they are granted a one-time pardon on certain kinds of transgressions, as long as those transgressions were necessary to the service and weren't publicized.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Like all Operators, Hoshi has a quantum processor in her head called a navis, which connects to her brain via thousands of tiny needles through the pores of her skull and is visible through the skin of her forehead. The navis helps her control her movements, blocks out unwanted sensory input, and comes up with socially appropriate things for her to say. It also serves as a personal computer she can use to make complicated calculations while she sleeps. The three victims were killed by having their navi forcibly ripped from their heads.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Hoshi's bolero jacket is made of nano-cloth that can only be destroyed by acid or extreme temperatures.
  • Character Tics:
    • Hoshi can tell when her friend Inspector Cassandra Sorreno is nervous because she fiddles with her locket.
    • Martin Ho rubs his palms over his pant legs when he broods.
    • Ursula, a woman Hoshi interviews, makes complicated gestures to illustrate what she says.
  • Child of Forbidden Love: Hoshi is the product of an illegal mating between two Operators. Her parents were killed for their crime.
  • Child Prodigy: Hoshi memorized the names of Red City's 4000 original settlers when she was two.
  • The City Narrows: Shirring Point, where most crimes and most innovations occur. Law enforcement has abandoned the area in the hopes that its depravity will remain contained.
  • Compressed Hair: When Hoshi removes the hat she's wearing as part of her fisherman disguise, what feels like a kilometer of hair flies out.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Hoshi is beaten up in a hate crime. She tells her Integration Officer she fell downstairs.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Hoshi hates weapons of all kinds, which doesn't stop Sorreno from forcing her to carry a shocker after she's beaten up in a hate crime.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: At one point Hoshi guesses, from the smudges under Sorreno's eyes and the fact that her clothes don't look like they've been changed since yesterday, that Sorreno didn't sleep last night.
  • Expressive Hair: Luzzie has programmed his emotive routines into his franca's hair, which twitches when he's surprised, jabs when he's angry, and goes limp when he receives unexpected bad news.
  • Eyes Always Averted: Eye contact makes Hoshi feel like her soul is being yanked out through her pupils, although she sometimes forces herself to make it while interrogating people.
  • Fainting: Hoshi hates going into the morgue because she almost always faints.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "K-dromer" for Operators, and "Dim" for normals.
  • Fictional Disability: K-Syndrome is caused by defects in the K-Region of the genome. Its symptoms are a verbal-sequential IQ at least three standard deviations below visual-associative IQ, sensory processing issues, and motor difficulties.
  • Friend on the Force: Sorreno was Hoshi's primary sponsor before she was emancipated, and is now one of her closest allies.
  • Future Slang: "Slop" means "to tell," usually referring to sensitive information.
  • Genius Loci: Red City has its own élan vital. Mai wants to summon and imprison it so she can have absolute power over Red City. But Hoshi's love of the city gives her a resonance with the élan vital that Mai doesn't have, so she's able to foil Mai's plan and free the élan vital.
  • Good Bad Bugs: In-universe example. Hoshi's navis has a bug that sometimes causes it to flood her brain with information from across the city while she's asleep. She's never gotten it fixed because it also lets her spy undetected through the city's sensorcams.
  • Happy Place: Hoshi calms herself by mentally tracing the skyline of Red City as it looks from her window over and over again.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: As an Operator, Hoshi is hated and distrusted by much of the city even before she's framed.
  • Hide Your Otherness: When disguised as a normal, Hoshi wears a hat to hide her navis and sunglasses to hide her avoidance of eye contact.
  • Iconic Item: Hoshi wears a bolero jacket and steel-toed boots with almost every outfit. When she has to wear a bulky sweater as a disguise, she wears the bolero under it.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: Many Operators come to Red City from other planets in the hopes that Integration Law will give them a better life. Most end up badly disappointed.
  • The Informant: Hoshi's tinker friend Kelvin, who went into Shirring Point four years ago after almost getting beaten to death by riot cops and never came out. People will say almost anything in front of him, so he has all the latest news about the upper layers of the underworld.
  • Insecurity Camera: A bird bumped into a sensorcam months ago, pointing it at the sky. Maintenance workers never got around to fixing it, meaning Hoshi can snoop underneath it.
  • The Metaverse: Memspace, a computer-generated environment through which people's minds can retrieve data and interact with each other. People are legally required to have a franca, or avatar, so other people in memspace know who they are. Hoshi's looks exactly like her real self, but some people choose to look completely different.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: When Hoshi's navis malfunctions at night, her nose bleeds.
  • Punch a Wall: Hoshi punches her window in frustration over being forced to carry a shocker, and over her lack of freedom in general.
  • Reading Lips: When Hoshi was first starting out, she bought an expensive lip-reading program for her navis. It comes in handy when she's spying on people through sensorcams with no sound.
  • The Rival: Martin Ho, who worked with Hoshi as a codebreaker back when they were owned. Hoshi was younger but got promoted past him thanks to her work ethic. Martin kept trying to spread malicious rumors and set up mistakes so Hoshi would get in trouble. Hoshi knew about it, thanks to a glitch in her navis that allows her to spy through sensor cams undetected, and was able to parry his increasingly unsubtle attempts. Finally Hoshi was granted autonomy, and Martin finally got her post.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: Hoshi reluctantly grants Luzzie full access to her perceptual flow so he can guide her through a riled-up crowd that would normally be too overwhelming for her even with the filters. Luzzie creates a program that allows her to process data and focus her attention just like a normal, then seizes control of her attention and leads her where she needs to go.
  • Sensory Overload: Hoshi drops most of her auditory filters to eavesdrop. When she's forced to quickly flee the building with no time to put them back up, she becomes completely overwhelmed and disoriented. When she almost passes out from overload, her emergency auditory filters go up, but by then her nerves are too shot to activate sensory and linguistics programming. She runs through the city in a daze and blacks out as soon as she reaches safety.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Cassiopeia Prime is almost entirely covered in ocean. Red City is located on its one island.
  • Starting a New Life: The criminal Luzzie Vai, aka the Sea Witch, deals in new identities for Operators who want to live as normal people. He supplies the addictive drug nyquolium-quadrolate, which improves sensory, motor, and verbal processing so Operators can function without their navi, as well as fake life histories and black market plastic surgery. The murder victim Jane Doe was one of his customers.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Late in the book Hoshi is disguised as a man, using nanomachines to masculinize her face and deepen her voice and bulky clothes to hide her curves.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: After Hoshi is falsely accused of collaborating with the Roccini Gang, a digipage is made offering 500cs for her capture alive.
  • Waving Signs Around: The Integration Office has both pro- and anti-integration protestors outside almost every day, with holo projections like "Ops are not the enemy/Make good on your apology" and "Safety First/Hobble All Ops!"
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Visible technology is widely regarded as shocking because people associate it with Operators. When Hoshi finds a drawer full of gears and motors, she compares it to someone in the twentieth century finding a drawer full of dildos and pictures of sodomy.