Thrill Switch by Tim Hawken, Review: A chilling dystopia

Thrill Switch is Tim Hawken’s latest thrilling dystopian novel with a kick-arse female protagonist. Read my full review.

Thrill Switch by Tim Hawken, Book Review

Thrill Switch Book Synopsis

I almost did a fist pump when my first murder case came in. Then I remembered it was because someone had died. Rather than look like a total douche-canoe, I smoothed my suit out, grabbed my notepad, and took a self-drive to the crime scene…

Follow foul-mouthed detective Ada Byron into the dark side of the metaverse as she works to solve a streak of murders involving cryptocurrency, ruptured eyeballs, and the most prolific serial killer of all time – Jazlin Switch.

Fast-paced, gritty cyberpunk at its best. Perfect for fans of William Gibson, Richard K Morgan, and Neal Stephenson.

*content warning: contains violence, references to sexual abuse, and adult language.

Genre: SciFi-Fantasy, Thriller, Crime

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Book Review

Dystopian fiction is not a genre I’m typically drawn to, but I have never gone wrong reading something written by Tim Hawken. Whether contemporary literature, experimental paranormal YA or this lightning-paced dystopian techno-thriller, Thrill Switch, he always delivers authentically layered and engaging characters and story arcs. He also knows just when to inject some humour to balance the dire.

I love feisty female characters, and Ada Byron is about as tough as they get. Past trauma and guilt have sharpened her attitude and bottomed out her trust level, both in people generally and participating in the virtual world. She’s rude, and at times outright crude, but her gutsiness is well-matched with the tough characters and situations she must confront in her hunt for a serial killer. And, yes, I’m sure Hawken’s naming of his Thrill Switch protagonist after the female computing pioneer is no accident…

The virtual world concept in this novel goes well beyond the virtual reality masks and simulations we know today. The Holos is a highly developed virtual world that is accessible to and utilised by the masses. People ‘fully sync’ to this virtual reality and live the bulk of their lives there – lives they perceive as more authentic and fulfilling than their lives in the real world. 

In Thrill Switch, the Holos was developed both in response to both people’s desire for the freedom and anonymity to partake in behaviours outlawed in the physical world and an overwhelming refugee and affordable housing crisis. Odd though my simplistic explanation may sound, I assure you Hawken’s nuanced worldbuilding has made this scary scenario feel an eminently plausible extrapolation of current real-world stressors.

Thrill Switch by Tim Hawken - Hardcover

There are several trigger topics in Thrill Switch, and Hawken does not shy away from their depiction. But those with strong constitutions are rewarded with a compelling action crime thriller that is also highly thought-provoking. Readers are sure to find themselves a little more open-minded by this novel’s conclusion…

I am hoping we will be seeing more of Thrill Switch’s lead character Ada Bryon in the future.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of Thrill Switch from:

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About the Author, Tim Hawken

Tim Hawken is a literary hooligan from Western Australia who writes dark sci-fi and fantasy. He is a 2-times winner of the AHWA’s Flash Fiction Competition, has been shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award twice, and likes to add a twist of wicked humour to his work. His debut Hellbound Trilogy was a cult hit, which garnered attention from Hollywood, including being pitched to Netflix by producers for a series adaptation. He has also released an experimental poetic paranormal YA novella, Spellraiser.

Tim has recently contributed to best-selling books such as Dear Santa, Dear Dad and Dear Mum, and released a literary fiction novel If Kisses Cured Cancer under the pen name T.S. Hawken.

Tim posts a 100-word, art-inspired story most days on Instagram (@tim_hawken). You can find more about him and his work at

* My receiving a copy from the author for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.