Monday, 16 January 2017

Lightspeed Frontier: Kicking the Future, by Adam Corres - 5 Stars

A free copy of this novel was submitted to the Having Faith Book Review Blog for an honest and independent opinion.

It’s just after 5am and I’ve read this book in two days. I am going to read it again and I don’t think I will ever give my copy away. What’s special? Any flaws? Yes, so that first then. Not all the characters have enough depth for us to care about what happens to them and some sections are light and bizarre, with others turned into long information bursts but I can forgive that because the structure only seems to be there to support the flow of ideas and humour. It’s densely packed at just 214 pages, so could easily have been diluted into a calmer, longer read, but wasn’t. It steps out from the crowd though because it is coming from a completely different place, a different kind of glow in the dark thinking delivered in a chatty and anecdotal storytelling style that wouldn’t normally go with the content. These people aren’t supposed to be funny, are they? I’ve also read the website and done a bit of Googling and found the computer game designers wanted someone to write a book to go with their game, for content. The author they ended up with could be a totally random pick or maybe it was about taking a risk to get something different. I’m not really conveying this well because it’s a book you laugh along with, despite the constant intensity. It’s there to enjoy, but it’s also just so carelessly bright that some people are going to give up.
      Foremost, this is comedy, so you can read it for the laughs without prior knowledge and just skip over anything techie, then go play the game and fly your space ship without worrying you’ve missed much. You’ll like the reverse hostage situation scene, where the protagonist doesn’t want her brother back and negotiates with the gangsters who are threatening to release him. You’ll probably like the crazy explorers. What you might get lost in are plot devices like the double slit experiment early on and using algebra’s complexity against it nearer the conclusion. If you do get a handle on the rest of what’s being said, you might find your brain lights up a bit. Having finished this book I have the weird feeling of being brighter than I was yesterday. I’d seek out a conversation about big ideas now that I’d be scared of before. The book isn’t for learning but it shares enthusiasm and you find you’re noticing what was there all the time, widening your awareness.
      The story is written in a conversational style with many foolish asides and most of the scenes are set piece or in chaotic outer space settings. It is a book of fun but behind it are other layers: there’s this constant background of thinking, which pops through every now and again to add hard science knowledge that it would normally take us years to hear about. It’s just so randomly done, one minute there’s an absurd wacky situation or play on words joke and then the author will casually mention how to unencrypt cashpoint to bank transmissions (easy), how to be invisible to satellites, a sense of why Trump beat Clinton, how to retrieve lost TV shows by combining original signals transmitted years ago into space, the minus value coin idea which perfectly describes the economy right now, how to find a submarine from orbit and why the West is prepared to bet your life that the Chinese don’t have a gadget they say they have (can you put valuable knowledge into a joke book just because it’s an indie and you think nobody’s reading it?). Then there was another layer of suggestive gags that will go straight over youngsters’ heads.
      The lead character is called Exia and she’ll be everyone’s favourite because she’s a screwed up youth who’s bright and sexy. I like the secondary characters more though. Plummet is well drawn, so I could almost imagine him in the past or the future, just making an appearance every now and again and talking about his own world that he doesn’t particularly understand. He’s got a tortoise but really he’s more like his tortoise than it is. His female counterpart is an explorer called Harmonia Polyphemus Clitwilliams, a glorious battle-axe who could have stolen the show here but the writer wouldn’t let her. Those two could have their own book and knock you flat with it. The two boys in it are not as good and seem to trail along behind Exia.
      So, this book is nuts (from a rocket launcher). It’s experimental and structured like the writer didn’t think that was important, like the chapters were dropped and put back together in a funny order, and it is hit and miss where the value of the hits outweigh the misses but there are also a list of individual moments that would each be worth publishing the whole book for. I have to also tell you about the ending. I can’t say what it is because that would spoil the feeling when you hit that one throw-away line, a couple of pages before the end of the book, which explains everything in context and makes you slap yourself on the forehead and say “Why didn’t I see that?” Straight after this brain crack is one of the greatest ways to end a novel that I’ve ever seen anywhere, a feat of simple writing that’s in an E.E. Cummings shape but with another casual twist. What a remarkable ending to a book. That unexpected tear or two after the last line did it for me. That made it a crazy 5.

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