Two corporations have replaced the US, splitting the country's remaining forty-five states (five have been submerged under the ocean) between them. Mallory streams Stellaxis's wargame SecOps on BestLife, spending more time jacked in than in the world just to eke out a hardscrabble living from tips. When a chance encounter with one of the game's rare super-soldiers leads to a side job for Mal--looking to link an actual missing girl to one of the SecOps characters.
... part mystery, part gamer-geek-out, part scream of rage at corporate culture and capitalist greed. Mal knows her world is a mess, but she’s never seen any hope of it changing—let alone hoped that she could change it ... She’s believably torn between fear and the certainty that the scary thing is the right thing to do ... part of the delight of reading Firebreak is unraveling secrets along with Mal, whose oh-shit-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into-now narration is immersive, endearing, and wry and, as things go ever further sideways, increasingly intense in a way that’s perfectly matched to the book’s video-game aspect. The intensity of the plot is carefully balanced by the strength and depth of the friendships among Kornher-Stace’s characters ... This world feels real; this world is real, and not that far away. Firebreak reads like a warning, but one that’s simultaneously a gripping, affecting tale full of characters I hope we’ll get to meet again.
... the novel quickly becomes a conspiracy-driven mystery, then a fast-paced battle sequence, and eventually a revenge plot, roughly corresponding with the novel’s four parts. Each of these sections largely takes place in a distinct environment. The in-game world dominates the first section, but the locations later recenter around New Liberty City, Old Town, and the Stellaxis headquarters. These shifting environments also help make the novel feel as though the plot is continually moving forward ... Corporations are on trial in this novel. If 1984 and Brave New World were warnings against authoritarian governments, Firebreak is a warning against unchecked capitalism. By combining familiar science fiction elements with a strong critique of the commodification of essential elements of life and the corrupting influence of power, Firebreak offers a frightening warning against a near-future dominated by the rule of megacorporations.