After reading the first few chapters of this story, I nearly put it down. The large amount of information that was being transferred (beamed) to the reader felt much like the proverbial drinking through a fire hose. However, once that initial information was imparted, the story took shape, and the characters began to morph into solid forms. Forms which I found intriguing. And after reading the last chapter of this episode, I was hooked.
While this story has some aspects of newness, there were so many things being done that I'm now curious how the writers will pull it all off successfully. Take for example the two main political systems that represent two diametrically opposed philosophies; one Ayn Randian, where citizens are left alone to sink or swim; another, where nearly pure Communism reigns--along with mediocrity. Given human nature, I question how these two systems could possibly coexist economically, and what forces might be required to keep them in balance.
The Beam, and its incantations within the world are an interesting extension of the connectively of the internet, central processing, and something mysteriously nefarious. I was hooked there. But, the mystery of how it all works and what role The Beam ultimately plays in people's lives remains to be seen. I suspect an Oz hiding behind a curtain somewhere.
What I thought worked best: zero preachiness in the series, at least so far. The authors did a remarkable job presenting alternate and extreme points of view without bias.
What I thought weakest: the characters. I had difficulty connecting with any of them on a level other than a simple lens to see the world operate. If most lived or died, I wouldn't care one bit. Except for Crumb. He was by far the most interesting character. There were a few other minor nit-picky things with the writing, too, but what bothered me most was a feeling the story had been rushed and lacked necessary depth for such an epic level story. A little more depth and connection to the characters could have made a good beginning into a truly great one.
But, my criticisms are minor. My ultimate recommendation for those who like near-future-extrapolation-sci-fi stories is to buy this series and enjoy the hell out of it. Well worth the money.
Ultimately, I am giving this series four out of five stars because I think Sean and Johnny have started a very ambitious series and now have the daunting task of pulling it off well. If they do, I can easily rate this a five star ride.