October 21, 2022

REVIEW Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers #1) by Zoe Hana Mikuta

Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers #1) by Zoe Hana Mikuta
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Format: Audiobook (Personal Library)
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

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“It makes sense that, when times were desperate enough, when people were frenzied enough, at a certain point we went past praying to deities and started to build them instead.”

Zoe Hana Mikuta’s debut science fiction novel, Gearbreakers, is an action-packed read filled with a budding queer romance, a dystopian society that worships mechanical gods, and one of my favorite tropes of all time, found family.  

Told from two points of view, readers get to see both sides of the conflict. Sona Steelcrest is a cybernetically enhanced prodigy, trained to pilot one of the gargantuan “Windups”. On the other side of the war is Eris Shindanai, one of the leaders of the Gearbreakers faction set on taking down the massive Windups from the inside. When they meet for the first time, their patience and their biases are challenged as they are forced to work together to take down the tyrannical government from within. 

As a loyal science fiction reader, “mecha” is an easy way to get me interested in a book (akin to using the word “dragon” for a fantasy novel). I didn’t even really read the synopsis before I bought this book. Make no mistake, however. This book is primarily a science fiction dystopian novel, but there is also a sapphic romance in the works. Specifically, Eris is bisexual/pansexual and Sona is lesbian. The girls start out as clear enemies in the novel, being on opposite sides of the war. But fate brings them together, shifting their relationship into that of reluctant allies and eventually love interests. They are both survivors, and they are both recovering after their world has been so cruel for so long. Their slow-burn romance makes use of emotional tension rather than pushing physical intimacy, and it was exciting to see their fierceness and protective natures come into play. 

The setting was reminiscent of many dystopian novels, with Godolia being a beacon of wealth and power while the rest of the world is suffering. However, the use of the “mecha” trope was incredibly unique in the book. As opposed to many other novels in the mecha genre, there’s much less of a focus on the individual mechas, or “Windups”. Despite serving as pseudo-Gods, they are not a symbol of hope or all things good. Instead, they symbolize oppression and cruelty, serving as tools of the government’s tyrannical regime. The author takes this idea and dials in on the revulsion and hatred most feel towards the pilots themselves. The revulsion stems from children being forced to undergo cybernetic alterations to be able to withstand the strain of piloting the robots (encompassing a transition to something ‘less than human’), and the hatred comes from their complacency in the government’s actions. Another unique aspect of Gearbreakers is that there is no clear antagonist to the story; there’s no figurehead villain like President Snow in The Hunger Games, and there is also no group of enemies to battle against like the Kaiju in Pacific Rim or the mecha aliens in Iron Widow. I’m excited and curious to see how the author will build on these aspects in the next book, and if there will be a ‘villain’ for Sona and Eris to defeat. 

Last but certainly not least is the found family aspect of the story. The Gearbreakers are a rag-tag crew, brought together by circumstance and a shared goal of destroying the Windups. Most of them are just kids though, so they love to goof around together. The stakes are raised when they go on a run, and it was even more heartbreaking when bad things happened. My heart ached for them, and their desperation to live to fight another day was palpable as a reader. 

All in all, Gearbreakers is an excellent science fiction novel, and I look forward to seeing how the story ends for Sona and Eris in the second book of the duology, Godslayers. Audiobook narrators Catherine Ho and Cindy Kay did a great job of bringing the story to life with their performance. Science fiction readers who are fans of Pacific Rim, Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow, or Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games will undoubtedly enjoy this book. 

Content Warnings: Death, Blood, Violence, Torture

About the Author

Twenty-two-year-old Zoe Hana Mikuta is a Korean-American writer currently attending the University of Washington in Seattle, majoring in English with a creative writing focus and minoring in History of Religion. She enjoys writing deteriorating worlds inhabited by characters with bad tempers, skewed morals, and big hearts.

She is the author of the YA wlw giant mecha books GEARBREAKERS (out!) and GODSLAYERS, publishing from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan Publishers on June 28th, 2022.

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