Simon & Schuster, out now
When a teenage girl commits suicide in front of him, teacher Owen Gray realises that the world has changed – and not for the better…
Daniel H. Wilson’s follow-up to Robopocalypse turns from the question of artificial intelligence gaining life, to what happens when we artificially try to increase our own intelligence. In near-future America – and as one of the side documents scattered through the book makes clear, this is a peculiarly American situation – those who have received such help via surgery start to be treated as an underclass. We see how good intentions can be hijacked by those with darker agendas, and, in Tolstoy’s phrase, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
In the same way that Kenneth Johnson used the Visitors’ hatred of scientists in the mini-series V to parallel the treatment of the Jews in Nazi Germany, so Wilson shows how seemingly high-minded laws can actually be used to demonise a class of people. So-called “pure” people urinate on our hero, beat him up and try to set fire to a trailer in which there’s a woman and child. With the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe during the current economic crisis, it’s a sharp reminder of how easily people can descend.
There’s a conspiracy running through the book that calls to mind The Manchurian Candidate, and other such political novels; some of the twists won’t come as a surprise to readers of the like of David Baldacci. However that’s a minor quibble – unlike his early novel, this is a single narrative so the various twists need to happen to one person.
Verdict: A fast-paced enjoyable thriller, with some well-written action sequences and some niggling questions at its heart. 8/10
Click here to read our review of Robopocalypse and our interview with Daniel H. Wilson about that book