The Hands We’re Given [Book Review]

Book Name: The Hands We’re Given
Author: O.E. Tearmann
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Pages: 428
Genre: Science Fiction > Cyberpunk, LGBT, Romance > MM Romance, Dystopia, Fiction, Military Fiction

There’s graphic sex scenes in this book. (The author even provided a warning at the beginning of the book and I’m happily surprised. Kind of wish more authors did this and more books came with warnings.)

Cover from GR. Find the book’s page >HERE<

I came across the book during my search for some cyberpunk reads (right around the time Cyberpunk 2077 was released). It sounded interesting and dystopian enough and with a ragtag team trope, the “Holy shit I sorta kinda don’t know how I landed myself into a commander position” main character, the themes around LGBTQA+, and the joker/ace/cards vibe, I was ready for a good time; sort of like…the many cherries on top.

Summary

It’s 2155 and America has completely changed. Gone are the days where we had political parties; Corporate America (named the United Corporations of America) runs the show now. 

Our team is a base for a group called the Democratic State Force, whose mission is to fight back against the Corporation and the dystopic hell they’ve given birth to. Base 1407 is unlike any of the other bases. They stand out and have quite the reputation that sets them apart. Named the Wildcards, their records are peppered with disciplinary write-ups. But it’s not just this behavior and attitude of theirs that leads to them having as insane of a reputation as they do. They had, in the past two years, 198 successful mission whereas the average per base was around 75 successful missions in that same given period. They were effective. They were good at their job. VERY good.

But after Commander Taylor passes away, they haven’t been on their game and have already run out two seasoned commanders off their base. It’s Aidan’s job to get them back on the mission. With their increase in disciplinary write-ups lately, the sector is threatening to disband them if Aidan fails to get them back into shape. One last commander, one last chance for the Wildcards. 

According to rumor, the Wildcards had been unstoppable. The stories about missions they’d pulled off, executives they’d disgraced by outing information to the Net, and things they’d invented were legendary. The base had been insane in their success record until the commander who had led them had developed bone cancer. No one had been able to supply the base with the right treatments. In the six months before the man’s death, everything in the unit’s record had gone to shit.

Tearmann, O. E.. The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild Book 1) (pp. 15-16). Amphibian Press. Kindle Edition. 

The last two commanders to replace Taylor had been complete assholes who nearly worked the team to death. When Aidan first joins, the Wildcards are not pleased. Some are already planning on how to get this one to high tail out of their base; pranks and snippy greetings included. They don’t trust him in the slightest and Aidan? He doesn’t want to be there. They have enough of a reputation to scare him even before his first day at work and it truly is his FIRST day at work. He’s straight out of commander training and he would rather be anywhere but at the head of a terrifying base that two other “seasoned” commanders couldn’t even handle.

Review

The characters are very interesting and each have their unique personalities and roles to the team. Every team member is a tailor fit to what the base needs and losing any of the Wildcards would be a devastating blow to the base. Aidan is our commander who is struggling with his transition from female to male (physically: his lack of resources to acquire the surgeries he needs and mentally: his previous confidant had let his secret slip and it ended up horribly). He’s got horrible anxiety and occasionally questions himself on his role and competence as a leader. But honestly, this makes sense. He’s fresh out of training and has never commanded any other bases before. The Wildcard is a wild place to start your commanding and leadership career so naturally Aidan has his fear.

Worldbuilding is done nicely here too. You get small glimpses of a future run by corporations that fall together to form the portrait of the “What Could Be” of America being run by megacorps rather than political parties. In this future, genetic manipulation is the norm. You either come perfect and on the Corps’ side, or you’re not, and good as dead or worse, be an enemy of the Corps. 

The bases are located just outside the Corp zones; close enough for them to act on their missions and for supply stock ups but far away enough to stay hidden from the watchful eyes of the Corporation. Life on the outside is tough but when it comes to fighting, there isn’t much of it.

I love the characters. I love Aidan because I could relate to his work anxieties. I loved Kevin for collections of things considered antiques in this future (including old films, movies, music and even outdated WORDS.) In this time and period, certain words are so outdated, they’re considered antiques and people might give you a weird or confused look for using them like. Quixotic? Sovereignty? What the heck are those?? I think one of my favorite things about this book were all the words that people didn’t know because they were “antiquated words.” I wish I took better notes on this book for every word Kevin used that he got blank faces in return for. It really shows the passage of time when certain words we might use today falls out of use by 2155.

And then you have the other smaller things that sets that world apart from ours. Corrective eye surgery is normal. You don’t even have to be a rich Corp to fix your vision problems. Even as a Duster, you get weird looks for having glasses. Why risk being a liability when glasses get blown off your face, while running and hiding, when you can permanently fix vision issues? Aidan has a holograph of his sister on a tablet that he consults for his anxiety or for personal advice. Sure it feels a bit more like the colder and more soulless version of your deceased friends and family…but they’re programmed to be as close to their original personalities as possible (I would like one please). This world is rich with new things and the differences between what you can access on and off the grid is very notifiable. What you might be able to easily get on grid could potentially cost you your life out in the Dust.

This book did not disappoint me. The characters are complex and the relationships are complicated. Characters can be flawed. People get angry and they might stop talking to each other (to a given extent; cold shouldering isn’t exactly a safe way to go about when teamwork and cooperation is a 110% necessity for survival sake). They make up and sit through problems together. They grow with each other. New friendships are made as characters, who hated each other in the beginning, learn to understand the other. This book taught me that not every military fiction needs to run on guns and combat. Sometimes, stealth and running away is how you win a fight. It’s not about engaging with the enemy, it’s about living another day for the sake of your base! Actions, even if done in the interest of others, can result in an entire base’s collapse.. You have to think for yourself and your base for every action you decide upon.

Tearmann paints a rich world, even if it’s no longer so bright. I just kind of wish there was a glossary for all the new terms in this book. They insult each other with the word Gamma! Like… “You gamma dipshit”, “You gamma bastard”, “That gamma piece of garbage” 110% amusing. Love it.

I savored the little pieces scattered everywhere through the book. There were so many small moments that really made this an enjoyable read (such as the “old” words or “pre-dissolution aged music”). I loved the depth of the characters and their growths. I loved the descriptions of the Corporate world and the Dusters. O.E. Tearmann did a great job with this book and a fantastic job tackling many different topics. This is only a glimpse of the major antagonist. Book 1 sets the premise and introduces the reader to what’s to come. An exciting start to the Aces High, Jokers Wild series.

“NatBank buys us and ZonCom sells. 
ArgusCo tells us where we dwell. 
TechCo owns what we read and play. 
AgCo decides what we eat today. 
EagleCorp tells us to obey. 
Cavanaugh drugs us to make us well. 
But one day we’ll ring the Liberty Bell. 
And then all the Corps will go to Hell.”

Tearmann, O. E.. The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild Book 1) (p. 79). Amphibian Press. Kindle Edition. 

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