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REVIEW: Gridlock by Nathalie Gray

“He finds love on the eve of a war he doesn’t plan on surviving.

A Cybershock story.

Dante knows the price of rebellion. The Grid created him in its likeness, turning him into a killing machine—tested, modified and enhanced to be a “better citizen”. Years may have passed since he escaped that freak show, but the scars are still fresh.

Without the mandatory implant, Steel scrapes by, living free of the Grid’s control. When a job goes bad, everyone around her dies, their minds crushed by the notorious Cardinal. But he doesn’t kill her. He takes her to a secret lair filled with fascinating, forbidden pre-Grid knowledge. Who is this man—ruthless murderer or eccentric loner?

Bad-mannered as she is, Dante can’t bring himself to silence the abrasive, cigarette-addicted Steel. Something about her calls to him, though trusting her could be a mistake. Should she betray him, it would wipe out years of patient waiting. Waiting while the Grid hunts him for the priceless information he carries within his living data vault. Waiting while his dish of revenge turns ice cold.

For Dante intends to go back. And this time, he intends to be the only one left standing.”

Dear Ms. Gray,

Gridlocked by Nathalie GrayI’m not normally a post apocalyptic girl. Generally I run screaming from those arcs and books that are offered to us with this theme. Movies too. Don’t like them either. But only for you will I break that and read this one. Yep, the first story of yours I read made that much of an impression on me. And whoo-hoo Canada gets an apocalypse too! Equal opportunity bleak future. I remember reading in comments on the 2012 movie that Australia and Canada always feel left out. Glad to see they’ll go down with the rest of us. Just kidding.

This is a short novella so there’s not a lot of world building, mainly generic “life’s gonna suck” details of a world gone horribly bad. This time from the Internet taking over. I hadn’t read that scenario before but then see the first paragraph. From reviews of other post-apocalyptic books at DA, I get that you’re using shorthand descriptions common to this genre: old, decaying world down on the ground with remnants of things common to today’s reader and the new, shinier one up in the air.

Steel is a cool heroine who shoots first and then asks no questions later. She does what she wants or feels obligated or needs to do without any pansy assed hand wringing over it. If some dude’s gotta die, he dies. I love the image of her with white hair, loads of tats and piercings. She also does what she has to in order to survive including running drugs, giving blow jobs to someone other than the hero and looking out for number 1. You don’t give her much history but enough to flesh her out a bit, give her motivation for her actions, reactions and thoughts. She’s definitely kick ass but she also knows that life is easier if one flies below the radar and keeps out of sight. I love how Steel gives Dante revenge on the person who’d experimented on him and made his life hell.

The only reason she breaks with her “me first” attitude is that Dante saved her life when he could have taken it, does some small kindnesses for her when there was no reason to, he didn’t demand something in return, and is the only person to care about her and about whom she cares for in her life. He also trusts her with his i.d. and his home location. Also something not often done then. With such a sucky generalized world she lives in, I can see how this would mean a lot to her.

Dante isn’t an overly huge, macho guy. He’s barely taller than Steel! But he’s got presence which I love how you nail by the voice tone and calmness he shows. That’s all that was needed for me to believe in his stature, intelligence and determination. His choice and use of words caught my attention and is explained by the books he reads. Plus he’s a virgin! I’m not sure about whole “can kill with a thought” thing but then there’s a lot of weird stuff in this book without a lot of space for explanations. He’s fairly calm and steadfast about his decision to destroy the Bunker and try to break the Grid. His reasons are both personal because of what was done to him and general because of what he sees happening around him. He’s resigned to the fact that more than likely he’ll die doing what he’s planned. Now there’s a man on a mission.

The story has tense action that is well described. It wasn’t until after I’d finished reading the scene when Steel first escapes from Dante that I realized I was holding my breath with her waiting for the doors to the elevator to close. There’s some deus ex machina stuff with young woman who helps Steel and Dante escape but okay, they were kind of backed into a corner. She must be expanded on in someone else’s novella.

I was surprised at the delay period of 7 months from most of the action until the end. I would guess that the other stories in this series might take place during this interval but the way this is written, it can and does stand on its own. I kind of like the dragonfly dream that lures him out of his coma and back to life. But the declarations of love – at least on his part – seem quick. Steel has now had 7 months to live with him but one quickie and he’s a gonner for life? Hmmmm. That must have been some damn good sex. B


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Tori
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 08:12:21

    Hmmm, I too am not much of a post apocalyptic girl either and the cover doesn’t call to me to buy it, but I like the sound of this one. Great review.

  2. Cally B.
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 08:16:17

    For reasons that escape me this kind of reminded me of V for Vendetta.

  3. Niveau
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 08:27:21

    A non-guilt-ridden heroine with a virgin hero, and it’s set in Canada? *swoons* I am so buying this.

  4. Lexxie Couper
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 08:32:28

    @Tori: Hmmm, I too am not much of a post apocalyptic girl either and the cover doesn’t call to me to buy it, but I like the sound of this one. Great review.

    The cover makes me think of Captain Mal from Firefly…*sigh* Captain Mal…

    It’s a fantastic read, Tori. I started and finished it last week in a single sitting.

  5. Sue T
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 09:14:32

    I’ve been toying with getting this but haven’t because I haven’t quite gotten in the post-apocalyptic genre yet (it’s been real hit and miss with these), this review actually helps me decide NOT to get it for several reasons – this: Bad-mannered as she is, Dante can’t bring himself to silence the abrasive, cigarette-addicted Steel (I don’t want to read about character’s smoking) and this from Jayne, “giving blow jobs to someone other than the hero”. Ick, just ick. I mean, if it happens before they hook up, then okay but after? And last, I’m just getting tired of the wounded kick-ass heroine. I like she’s not guilt-ridden but everything alse about her seems too abrasive and that’s not what I want in a heroine.

    And I so wish the cover reminded me of Mal from Firefly ’cause I’d have been all over this but, for me, he so didn’t. Darn it.

  6. Diane Dooley
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 09:43:28

    Sounds like just the sort of thing I love. Time to add to the Nathalie Gray section of my Kindle library.

  7. Jayne
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 09:44:54

    @Tori: No, the cover doesn’t do much for me either.

    @Lexxie Couper: The cover guy reminds me of someone but I haven’t put my finger on who yet.

  8. Jayne
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 09:46:35

    @Niveau: The earlier novella I read by Gray is also set in Canada.

    @Diane Dooley: Are all her books set there? Makes sense but I’ve only read the two…

  9. Jayne
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 09:47:44

    @Sue T: I’m glad I could help you make up your mind even if it’s in the negative. ;)

  10. Kay
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 10:58:12

    @Jayne: Maybe he’s Jack Bauer? In a constipated sort of way.

    I’m not a fan of novellas (I like my stories long) but based on the review, I’ve got to try the preview.

  11. Jayne
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:06:58

    @Kay: LOL! No, I’ve been thinking about this and it’s Rutger Hauer who comes to mind.

  12. DS
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:39:29

    Internet as cause for apocalypse is something that I’ve read a lot of times over the years– from before there was an actual world wide web in fact. But on one hand I’m always up for a new version. On the other hand although heroine/hero/setup sounds interesting I don’t like novellas and especially not short novellas. On the third hand I read the first couple of pages on line and it sounded good so I sent myself the sample and if I still feel positive at the end of the sample I’ll buy it.

  13. Kristi
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:55:02

    This sounds really good. I also don’t like novellas usually, I like my books longer but I might have try this out. I will have to check her out on Amazon.

    I LOVE Joss Ware’s apocalyptic novels and all the YA ones.

  14. Kelly
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:05:54

    Other Canadian apocalypses: The Last Canadian by Heine (1974), John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (pretty famous), Margaret Atwood’s “Freeforall” (she has several post-apoc titles that, while taking place in different areas sometimes, are certainly from a Canadian perspective. There may be more, but those are the ones I’ve read.

  15. Jayne
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:15:04

    @DS: Now see, I knew the internet as the source of all future evil was probably already utilized but for me, it’s pretty much all new.

    And based on the two I’ve read, Gray does novella length fairly well.

  16. Nicole
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 14:02:06

    I read and enjoyed this one. I also read one of the other stories and didn’t get that they have a world in common. They just seemed to both by post-apocalyptic worlds. So I was kinda bummed that I didn’t get to know more about the repercussions of what Steel does in this story.

    I do like Nathalie Gray’s stories.

  17. cleo
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 16:07:22

    Svaha by Charles DeLint is another post-apoc Canadian story. DeLint is Canadian and I’m pretty sure it’s actually set in Canada (or the post-apoc remnants of Canada). It’s not his usual urban fantasy – it’s more cyberpunk-y. And it has a nice romance. I loved it when it came out, although it’s not one of his more popular works – it’s out of print now.

  18. Lexxie Couper
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 19:01:32

    @Jayne: @Kay: LOL! No, I’ve been thinking about this and it’s Rutger Hauer who comes to mind.

    Oh, as in Roy, from Blade Runner? “Wake up. Time to die…” (Did you know that line was ad-libbed?)

  19. Nathalie Gray
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 20:21:19

    The model’s resemblance to various actors, etc, was making me crazy because I had that feeling too when I was working on the covers (did all three for the anth…I’m a lucky, lucky woman).

    Then it hit me: I think the dude on Gridlock looks like Jeremy Renner!

    Thanks for reading Gridlock, Jayne :)

  20. Jayne
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 03:57:51

    @Nathalie Gray: The model does sort of have that “Hurt Locker” thing going on. Was doing the covers an example of “suffering for your art?” ;)

  21. Ell
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 12:30:53

    New author for me. Gridlock sounded good so I checked prices. Nook 3.50, Kindle 2.89. I saw two other of her books that sounded interesting. Bain’s Wolf and Timely Defense. Ouch on pricing! 

    Prices for BW- Kindle 2.99, Nook 9.52, EC 1.99. 
    TD- Kindle 1.49, Nook 9.52, EC .99 cents. 
    The majority of her other nook and kindle books were equal, EC cheaper all around. I called BN to see if they would match Amazon on those three books. Answer is No. 

    EC got my business.

    Timely Defense was good. First I’ve read of this author and thought it was good. A time traveling, golf club toting Canadian lawyer lands in medieval Norway. Funny. Good read. I will read more of her books.

  22. Ell
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 15:39:31

    Edit: Switzerland. Not Norway.

  23. Nathalie Gray
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 06:00:32

    @Jayne: Oh yes, much much suffering. I mean, looking for handsome men in thousands of shots. Feel my pain… ;)

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