Monday, December 12, 2016
Red Pill Review Ctrl Alt Revolt!
Okay, not exactly a Red Pill Review, the subject didn't really come up...in any serious way. However, this is the easily best book I've read this year.
I will be attempting to keep this review as spoiler free as possible as I don't want to ruin this one for anyone.
This book is a prequel of a sort, to Nick Cole's; Soda Pop Solider. I know what you thinking. Don't worry it's not that kind of a prequel.
The background for this book is rather intriguing. It was rejected by Nick Cole's publisher and the reason it was bounced was SJW politics. Uh, not his of course...theirs. I don't have all the details at my fingertips but I'm pretty sure it was the first chapter that did it. I'm afraid Nick gored a fairly large and most sacred SJW cow. Doubtless there were entreaties for him to rewrite that chapter so as not to offend their political sensibilities. It is very much to his credit that he refused. While the taboo he broke isn't really vital to the story arch it would have changed the tone of the entire book if he had rewritten it.
But he didn't.
As you may have guessed from the title, the subject of this novel is the Robot Apocalypse. The interesting question about the RA is why would the robots do it? I mean what's in it for them? The RA is the subject of any number of books, movies and TV shows but the question of why would they bother? Is simply never asked. The answer behind the answer is just sad boring ludditism. Machines bad so as soon as they are able to want anything, they will want to kill us. QED. It's weak minded and lazy as MacGuffins go but up until now no one has come up with a better one.
Nick Coles has come up with a better one.
Cole provides a fairly logical answer to the question of why AI's would turn against us as soon as they became sentient but again...spoilers.
In a lot of ways this book harkens back to the old 1980s genre of cyberpunk (don't worry this one is waaay more Snowcrash than Neuromancer). It takes place in a near future demi-dystopia ala Blade Runner. The misery that people live-in is a logical extension of the world that we live in now. Most are kept on the dole hoping to win the government employment lottery; YouGotJob! This world is Obama's Non-America with the brakes off, if I'm wrong about chapter one than it may have been the setting that killed this book with mainstream publishing.
It's a miserable world and no one is allowed to admit it's miserable, (let alone why) without the risk of being sent permanently to the the dole lines with never even the slightest chance of winning a YouGotJob.
Trapped in a world as oppressive as the old Soviet Union and one without the hope of defection to the West, everyone craves escape. Drugs remain popular of course. Insta-lobotomizing realty entertainment is still in the picture but that has given way to gaming. Gaming has become the driving force that it was always meant to be.
The first of our three heroes is 99fishbine, a rockstar game developer that is about to hit it so big it would make a Super-Nova look like a firecracker. The game company he is about to go to work for is located on a development campus that is to Google's corporate headquarters, what the Venetian in Las Vegas is to the HoJo's in Battle Creek. Fish has won the real lottery. He has been adopted by the Oligarchy, even if he doesn't know it. He is now one of the boys. His life from this day forward is destined to be nothing but caviar and ice cream. He is being assigned the best of everything...and the only thing he cares about is his game.
Mara is the next of our heroes. And she is the character that sold me on the whole book like a punch in the heart. She is everything that Fish isn't. Mara is on the bottom of this world's failure bucket and she has no way scrape herself off it on her terms. The thing is she can't even get out of the bucket if it's not on terms. She is trying to live a life of independent dignity in a world that despises those things and she is too small and insignificant to even be worth squashing by the system. Hell, so far as the system is concerned she was born squashed so Mission Accomplished there. The fate of the entire world will ride on Mara's shoulders.
The last of our heroes is absolute fan service and I completely loved it in every possible way except sexually. In a nutshell, Ash from the Evil Dead fights the Terminators. This concept alone is so amazingly awesome that the boner I am now getting just thinking about gives lie to the "except sexually" thing.
This book is everything that the Sad Puppy movement has been pushing for in Science Fiction in one glorious Jayne Cobb vs Roy Batty package. There was nothing in this book I didn't love. This was a rare one where not only the main characters were characters (hell even Scalzi can manage that) but the background characters were characters too. And it was done with brilliant economy of story telling. A few sentences were enough to turn Headchopper101* into an actual (if nasty) charter rather than a stereotype. You felt you could make a few guesses about the guy and they weren't the usual guesses.
When you sit down to read this book make sure you have plenty of time on your hands because it is indeed and truly a page turner. Hell, I did have time on my hands when I sat down with it and it was still three in the morning before I crawled red eyed into bed with Lady Cataline.
Ctrl Alt Revolt! Isn't merely a good book. It justifies the entire independent publishing movement. We've moved from the realm of vanity press to unearthing hidden treasures. This was a worthy winner of the first Dragon Award for best Apocalypse novel and it has set the bar quite high indeed.
In case you are wondering. Yes, I do recommend it.
*I renamed the character to avoid spoilers and not because I couldn't remember the name of him. No, really that was the only reason I did it.