Skip to main content

Auxiliary: London 2039 (SF) - Jon Richter ***

Jon Richter shows a lot of promise in this dystopian murder mystery set in a dark, future London. The main character, detective Carl Dremmler, polices a world where pretty well everything is run by a blend of AI and the internet called TIM, where humanoid robots are commonplace and where total immersion gaming is so beguiling that players regular die, failing to emerge into the real world.

Things get intriguing when a man who murders his partner claims that his artificial arm attacked her of its own accord. Despite doubts from the police hierarchy and opposition from mega-IT companies, Dremmler and his partner begin to suspect the man is telling the truth and something dark is happening. Things get particularly interesting - and the writing particularly engaging - when Dremmler visits the mega factory where the artificial arm was created and sees a production line making what he had thought was a real person.

The book really takes off at this point. Admittedly, sometimes the concepts feel a little derivative: TIM feels awfully like HAL in 2001, to the extent at one point there's almost a recreation of the pod bay doors scene with Dremmler yelling 'Stop the Pod and open the door!' and TIM replying 'I cannot comply with your request at this time.' Dremmler himself is distinctly reminiscent of Rick Deckard in Blade Runner and there's a distinct echo of Susan Calvin from Asimov's I, Robot in a factory boss. However, this really only adds to the fun. I'd also say 2039 is far too soon for things to have changed this much from the present, especially in terms of the perfection of humanoid robots. But for about three quarters of the book, things were going really well.

At this point, it's as if the author got a bit bored with it and finished it off as quickly as possible. What had been an intriguingly ambiguous character suddenly becomes a straightforward evil Bond villain. We get clumsy writing such as 'They ran. But the door was locked... And then it wasn't.' followed a couple of pages later by a closed grille where we get '"It won't budge!" she yelled back, but then it did...' And the book ends with a classic short story ending, fine for something you've invested a few minutes in, but entirely inadequate for a novel.

So, it's a difficult one. This could have been a really good book, but Richter doesn't carry it through to the end. However, as mentioned at the beginning, there's a lot of promise here, and I hope it will be fulfilled in the future.

The book is published by TCK Publishing and you can find more about Jon Richter at his website.

Hardback:    
Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to Drive a Nuclear Reactor - Colin Tucker ****

How To Drive A Nuclear Reactor does exactly what it says on the tin. The book is a general overview of nuclear reactors. From the basic principles that make them work through to what buttons to press in what order (and of course how and why they can go wrong).Nuclear power could be a good step on the path to a greener energy future, but there is a lot of understandable fear. This book can give some idea of what an incredible feat of both science and engineering one of these machines is and, hopefully, make anyone reading it feel far more comfortable about them.The book presents information about everything, almost down to the literal nuts and bolts, giving you a near complete understanding of how a nuclear works. From putting in the fuel to getting out the power and down from the control panel to the construction material. Everything you could ever want to know is here. By the end you'll likely feel ready to walk into a control room and get started (do not try doing this, nuclear …

Being Mortal - Atul Gawande ****

I heard recently that the local geriatric ward puts a photograph of the patient in his or her prime by each bed. The aim is to help staff to treat their patients as individuals, but it makes me uneasy. Do these people only matter because of what they were, not what they are? Because once they stood proud and handsome in their uniform, or looked lovely on their wedding day?

Professor Atul Gawande has the problem surgically excised and laid out for inspection in one of his unflinching but compassionate case studies:

‘What bothered Shelley was how little curiosity the staff members seemed to have about what Lou cared about in his life and what he had been forced to forfeit... They might have called the service they provided assisted living, but no-one seemed to think it was their job to actually assist him with living – to figure out how to sustain the connection and joys that most mattered to him.’

Gawande is an eminent surgeon. As a young resident he displayed little overt emotion when hi…

Twenty Worlds - Niall Deacon *****

This is a truly entertaining and informative book, but the reason I’m giving it the full five stars has as much to do with the refreshing novelty of the author’s style as anything else. There’s novelty in the subject-matter too – the wide variety of recently discovered exoplanets orbiting other stars – but even so this is the third book on the topic that I’ve read. The first two were a lot less fun to read, and (without naming and shaming the authors) it’s worth a brief diversion to explain why.The first author was a university professor with a vast knowledge of the subject, who seemed determined to convey the entirety of that knowledge without stopping to think whether it was interesting or necessary for a general audience. The second author – another academic – took a different but equally tedious approach, with a plodding chronological account that focused as much on the dull routine of the scientists involved as on their work.Niall Deacon doesn’t make either of those mistakes. He’…