The Hive Construct
Pratchett prize prose
Release Date: OUT NOW!
352 pages | £ 16.99 ( hardback)/£ 6.99 ( ebook) Author: Alexander Maskill Publisher: Doubleday
Located in the Sahara,
New Cairo is a city of extremes, where money and power are concentrated in an elite with roots in corporate dynasties. The poor get by as best they can, at least until a virus that attacks the biotech implants on which so many depend starts to spread. As the city goes into lockdown, revolution is in the air.
We see this unrest through the perspective of a few key characters, primarily hacked- off computer whizz Zala, privileged kidnap victim Ryan and security expert Alice, who works for those agitating for change but mostly just wants to escape.
As the situation starts to unravel and the chances of compromise pass, debut author Alexander Maskill – latest winner of Terry Pratchett’s annual prize for first- time novelists – ratchets up the tension in fine fashion. Until the final few pages, that is, where there’s the sense of a writer struggling to bring different storylines to satisfying conclusions. One character’s fate is positively glib in moral terms.
There are other flaws. New Cairo is far too generic to be truly convincing as an African city of the future. There’s a nagging sense too that Maskill hasn’t thought carefully enough about how tomorrow’s tech might differ from today’s.
Still, let’s not underestimate the achievements here: this is a genuinely promising debut. Jonathan Wright