Your Forma: Electronic Investigator Echika and Her Amicus Ex Machina

By Mareho Kikuishi and Tsubata Nozaki. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Roman Lempert.

Possibly the most difficult type of book for me to review falls under the category of “excellent book that is nevertheless not for me”. I can recognize the worth in this title, and think a lot of people should check it out, especially if you like the darker side of light novels such as Eighty-Six (whose author recommends Your Forma). That said, this is going to be my only volume of this series, which very nicely wraps up as if it was a single book. (It was a contest winner, and those usually do.) First, its genre, however sci-fi its coating may be, is police procedural, which I usually do not vibe with. Secondly, one of the two leads annoyed me throughout the book. Now, that’s deliberate on the part of the author, and there’s a very good, realistic reason behind it. Nevertheless: annoyed. That said… damn, this was compelling, and I loved Echika, the brilliant but broken cop who keeps losing partners as they injure themselves trying to keep up with her amazing brain.

In an alternate version of our present everyone has Your Forma, which is basically a sort of VR overlay in their head. Unfortunately, that also leads to things like viruses that make the user see horrible blizzards and puts them into the hospital. Echika and her partner are diving into the minds of the infected to try to trace where it came from. Sadly, her partner passes out, as I noted above, when Echika is simply too fast for him. Since she has done this for several partners in a row, her chief is a bit tired of it, and partners her with an Amicus – which is to say an artificial human. The question of just how self-aware they are is very much up in the air, and Echika for one despises them, for reasons that seem to have something to do with her past. Can Harold prove his worth to her and turn this into a fun Caves of Steel-esque book? Or is there something more sinister going on?

First off, as I noted above, I know there are some people who will want to know this, so: Your Forma is indeed a cop book, and there are cops here who do questionable things, including our two leads. So YMMV there. Echika’s past is something that comes out little by little as the book goes on, and her cold, seemingly emotionless exterior is chipped away by Harold’s charming, sensitive… and manipulative questions, as he needs to break through her facade in order to get what he wants. Honestly, as a long-time reader of books with realistically human robots, the question of whether Harold was a “real” person was one I took as read, and I think as a reader we’re supposed to. This also means I’m allowed to think that he’s an asshole a lot of the time frequently to provoke Echika into a reaction. The fact that he’s very charming while doing this does not really change it.

I do recommend this book to fans of crime dramas or sci-fi. The world it carves out is excellent, the action and set pieces are also excellent, Echika is terrific.

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