Review: Debt Collector (Serial Box Set Vol. 1-3) by Susan Kaye Quinn

Debt Collector (Debt Collector, #1-3) - Susan Kaye Quinn

Series: Debt Collecotor,  Vol 1,2, & 3


Description: What's your life worth on the open market?  A debt collector can tell you precisely.

Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He's just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja's sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane... until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn't what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone--a dark pit he's not sure he'll be able to climb out of again.

The first three episodes of the Debt Collector serial are collectively the length of a short novel, or 152 pages. These are the first three of nine episodes in the first season of The Debt Collector serial. This dark and gritty future-noir is about a world where your life-worth is tabulated on the open market and going into debt risks a lot more than your credit rating.


My Review:

This box set includes the first three episodes (Delirium, Agony, and Ecstasy) of a 9-part serial. I will say upfront that I am not a big fan of serials when they are ongoing for several reasons, though I don’t mind them once they are all bundled in one package. I decided to read and review this set of the first three episodes because I actually really liked the sample of Delirium. Even though it was a short sample (because the episodes are short themselves) it hooked me right away.

The story is told from Lirium’s POV. He is a Debt Collector. In this futuristic world, a person’s life energy is somehow tied to their life worth and financial debts. Lirium collects a person’s life-energy at death to pay off their debts...I think. Of course, Lirium is the one that actually causes the death by some power he has to draw out a person’s life-energy through skin contact. So he is sort of a cross between a debt collector and a grim reaper. I’m probably butchering the definition of a debt collector, but I’m still trying to get my head around how it all works. From what I can tell from the first three episodes I read, he only collects from people who were already sick and going to die anyway. He just ended up bringing about their demise earlier than natural causes would have done. Once the energy is collected he transfers it, minus his 10% cut, to people designated as “high-potentials”. These are people like scientists, etc. who have some skill, ability, or knowledge that can contribute to the betterment of society. I felt this gave the story a light dystopian feel.

The “hit” that Lirium gets from his cut of the life-energy is very drug-like and in fact, it is described as an addiction. So it is not surprising that Lirium is a jaded character who feels empty and lonely. He uses sex and alcohol to get by until the next hit. Doesn’t sound very likable, huh? Actually, I really liked Lirium from the start. He showed very early in the story that underneath those hard edges, he has a hidden softer side and some sympathy for those he collects from, which he shows in small ways. I envisioned Lirium to be at least in his thirties so when I first learned that he is only twenty-years old, I was shocked and wondered how he came to be a debt collector at such a young age. You do learn something about this in the third episode.

Eventually, Lirium is put in a situation where he needs to make a moral decision and this starts the ball of intrigue rolling for the story. The layers start to peel away to reveal the underbelly of this world. Lies and betrayals are uncovered but things are not what they seem on the surface. In the second episode (maybe it’s the third…they are starting to blend together in my head) you meet Ophelia, who is the only person Lirium seems able to connect with. Something happens to her and Lirium is ready to risk all to help her.

One thing I wondered was how, in this futuristic society where a person’s life-energy could be sucked out and transferred to another, where the debt collectors have computer-like devices in their palms (which oddly seemed like a natural progression from our handheld smartphones of today), people could still be dying of cancer. Wouldn’t it have been eradicated by then? It got me thinking if maybe that was actually a part of the unfolding story. Hmmm… *ponders*.

One thing about serials that I don’t really like is that many use major cliffhangers to draw a reader from one episode to the next—Hate. That. So I was a little worried that this serial would do the same. I am very happy to say it didn’t. The episodes are not wrapped up, of course, since it is an ongoing story, but it doesn’t stop in a part that leaves the reader completely hanging—Love. That. Since there appears to be future “Seasons” of this continuing serial, I’m curious how the end of each season will be handled. The story is described as future-noir. I got the future part of the story but it didn’t really have that much of a noir feel to me. This was actually a plus for me since I’m not that interested in the noir style..

I enjoyed the writing style and storytelling. I was engaged in the story and wanted to know what would happen next. I thought it was an interesting world with interesting characters that I cared about. I’m no expert on serials, but I feel this one is well done and would be the type of serial that this non-serial type person would follow. However, I will still probably wait for the full bundle (or at least the 3-episode bundles) because I’m an impatient kitty and I don’t want to wait to see what happens from one episode to the next. : )

Heat Level: Sensual but limited (Even though there is a lot of talk about sex workers, there is only one sex scene over the three episodes. Not closed door but neither is it overly explicit or graphic.)

Side Note: I have to say that I keep thinking about how well presented this ebook box set was overall. From the cover art to the formatting to the image at the beginning of the chapters. It just seems like a lot of care was put into presenting a professional product. I don’t usually pay much attention to this stuff unless it is really bad, but for some reason it is jumping out at me enough that I wanted to mention it.