A Tunnel in the Sky

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Run With The Hunted, Part 1
by Jennifer R. Donohue

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted November 2, 2023
Edits and Addenda on December 20

1. Run With the Hunted / 2. Ctrl Alt Delete / 3. Standard Operating Procedure

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Run With the Hunted is a series of novellas by Jennifer R. Donohue. Six so far, with a seventh announced for sometime next year. It is a near future tale of a group of three women who do crime. The author says it is cyberpunk, but I wouldn't classify this first story as such. Yes, it is near future (20 or 30 years at the most), and there is a lot of high tech, but nothing that seemed out of the realm of present tech, or else I misinterpreted some of the things that happened. The three women are Bristol, Bits, and Dolly, neither of which is their real name. Bits is obviously a nickname since she is the computer tech whiz of the group. Dolly, the weapons and vehicle expert, might be channeling Dolly Parton; she affects an "Awh, shucks!" Southern drawl, country girl demeanor. At one point Bristol introduces herself as Chelsea, also obviously not her real name. Her skill seems to have more to do with her social connections, along with her beauty and fashion sense. She may be a former model. Dolly sometimes calls her Bristle, and not necessarily in a joking way. They have been working together for a while, not sure how long, but they don't know much about each other, their pasts or even their current lives when not together. The first caper told here, in first-person narrative by Bristol, is a diamond heist, one in which they get in way over their heads, leading to being hunted by multiple groups.

Bits is always working under her VR headset, and has obviously developed many of her own surveillance and security programs. At one point Bristol wonders if she also has optical or cortical implants, but she doesn't ask and it isn't addressed again. In this story at least. So, cyberpunk or not, it is a well-written, fast-paced, thrilling adventure. There are no real good guys here, although Bristol puts a slight bit of trust in one man she met at the scene of the crime, who turns out to be a government agent, but which government or which agency is not clear. Besides, they betray him at the last minute, since they couldn't be sure his superiors would honor the deal they had made. The diamonds they stole are more than they appear, which is what leads to their problems, but I won't give any details about that. Whoever originally stole the diamonds, and whoever stole from them and are attempting to sell them, plus agents and gangsters from who knows where, all are after them. Multiple near-captures, multiple last minute escapes, plus warnings and rescues that may not be as helpful as they first seem. I haven't searched for info on where the story goes from here, but I will follow up on it eventually.

The purchase links above are for paperbacks, very reasonably priced, although I got it for Kindle. All titles are just $2.99, and the same for Kobo, Nook, and other sources. The first three are also available in a hardcover omnibus [ Bookshop / Amazon ]. As with any of our links, purchases through them may earn us a commission. The other stories have sub-titles, the second being Ctrl Alt Delete. When I get to them I will add those titles at the top of the page, with a sub-link for my extra comments..

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Posted December 20, 2023
Something I learned after reading the first story, but before even buying the second: Donohue alters the first-person viewpoint character with each. The first was told by Bristol, for Ctrl Alt Delete it is Bits. Talk about an unreliable narrator…imagine the one telling the story loses time frequently, sometimes not realizing that right away, or even where they are. The reasons for that have to do with a previous job, but anytime she gets close to those memories she crashes. She has been holed-up in Mexico, in a villa supposedly a former drug lord's lair. The realtor she dealt with said that drug lord had several tigers, but had left them in the jungle nearby. Bits hasn't seen them, mainly because she spends most of her time inside VR. She is not sure how long each time, but possibly not as long as she thinks. Dolly shows up to get her help. The new task is to rescue Bristol, who has been arrested by Homeland Security. The cyberpunk element is much stronger here. In addition to her VR helmet, Bits has enhanced contact lenses for use outside VR. By the third story she has optical implants. Not sure Bristol has any enhancements, but Dolly, being a former "super-soldier" recruit, has several, including a cybernetic arm.

Bits can hack anything, including Homeland Security. They find out where Bristol is being held, somewhere in Kansas, along with a timeline of when she will be transferred to another unit, although Bits is not able to determine where that might be. They leave Mexico into California, where Dolly contacts a former associate, but it is not clear how she, or they, know him. Perhaps Nicolai worked with them before, or maybe only with Dolly on a side job. They are now in two vehicles, headed toward Kansas. Bits is again in VR most of the time, both on the road or in some small motel along the way. She needs more info on Bristol's location, when she will be moved from there, where to, and the size of the escort detail. On one occasion, she senses another hacker in the same space, is able to track where they are, contacts them, and they rendezvous, the other hacker, "Null," joining the team. I didn't think that was a good idea, and it is possible Bits knew Null was a plant right away, but as the saying goes, "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." When they stop the transport cars, in addition to retrieving Bristol they pick up some other new tech. It turns out Bristol likely allowed herself to be arrested, the intention being gathering more intel, and along with what Bits has learned, they go to an abandoned black site depot in Louisiana.

I won't tell you what they find there, or its significance, but it was necessary to deal with something Dolly had faced, and it also helps Bits come to terms with the reasons for her black-outs. Another fast paced adventure, and even though it didn't answer all my questions, it was still exciting and enjoyable. Not sure if Nicolai might recur at a later time (but not in the third story), but I feel sure Null will not, but I could be wrong. She is left at that black site while our ladies make their exit, probably just in time. Another strong recommendation..

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Posted December 20, 2023
It is possible Donohue titled the third story as a joke, because hardly anything about their new job is standard. Since Dolly is the narrator here, it may refer to the way she faces each task, methodically, as a well-trained soldier would. Except she is not the one who initiates the new job. It is Bristol again, and the job seems frivilous on the surface. Retrieve a dog from an auction on Macau. A Tibetan Mastiff supposedly worth over $3 million, their pay-out half of that. Bristol gets the info from an intermediary; she doesn't know who will end up with the dog. Dolly continually talks as if she is going along with it just for the money, so that might be the standard part of the title. Or the standard part of Dolly may be she is not the well-trained soldier, instead liking to go off-book whenever the feeling strikes.

While Bristol is off shopping for new clothes, shoes, and makeup, Dolly and Bits break into the auction facility and steal the dog. It is at least another day before Bristol is aware of that. She attends the auction anyway, for to not do so might tip someone off that she had something to do with the dognapping. I won't get into all the details of how the job continually goes south (which may be another standard for these ladies). Bristol's intermediary, or the one he was working for, may be Vietnamese, according to informtion they find on a phone they retrieve. They go to Hong Kong to find someone who can take them to Da Nang. Another coincidental thing happens, something that is probably not a coincidence. Dolly runs into someone she knows from her youth, a man she grew up with who had also been part of her super soldier training. He just happens to know people who bootleg helicopters, buying them as scrap and 3D printing replacement parts.

I'm hoping the SOP doesn't occur too many other times in the stories to come. Former acquaintances just happening to be where the task takes our three heroines. The stories are still well told, the ladies all have distinct personalities that are brought to the fore, no matter whom is narrating. If and when I get to the next one I will create a new page, and since a seventh has been announced, might eventually have at least three pages devoted to Bristol, Bits, and Dolly. All of these are available as e-books from multiple sources, as well as paperback, all three in a hardcover omnibus, but as far as I know not in audio yet. All are recommended, even if to different degrees.


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Jennifer R. Donohue


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