Spark

Doesn’t hit the mark

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

302 pages | £ 16.99 ( hard­back)/£ 6.56 ( ebook) Au­thor: John Twelve Hawks Pub­lisher: Ban­tam

Near- fu­ture sf is one of

the hard­est sub­gen­res to get right, and also one of the eas­i­est ways for “main­stream” au­thors to trip them­selves up in em­bar­rass­ing ways. Cre­at­ing a con­vinc­ing ex­trap­o­la­tion for to­day’s pri­va­cyfree, smart­phone- ob­sessed so­ci­ety isn’t easy, and while new thriller Spark tries its best to use the near- fu­ture set­ting to ex­plore provoca­tive ques­tions, it’s ul­ti­mately dragged down by its rou­tine plot­ting and pre­ten­tious tone.

Ja­cob Un­der­wood is an as­sas­sin em­ployed by a mas­sive fi­nan­cial cor­po­ra­tion called DBC who suf­fers from Co­tard’s Syn­drome – a men­tal disorder that makes him be­lieve he is dead. Blank and emo­tion­less, he “erases” his tar­gets with no prob­lems, but when he’s as­signed to hunt down a run­away fe­male DBC em­ployee, and is then asked to kill an en­tire fam­ily, things get out of con­trol. Ja­cob’s log­i­cal façade crumbles as he starts ex­pe­ri­enc­ing feel­ings and ques­tion­ing his world view…

The core of the book is a bog- stan­dard glo­be­trot­ting thriller. Around this are wrapped thin character drama and sci- fi con­cepts that of­ten feel like a very ’ 90s ver­sion of the fu­ture. Creaky di­a­logue com­bines with over­played philo­soph­i­cal themes. The re­sult is a con­fused mish­mash of spir­i­tu­al­ity, SF and anti- surveil­lance polemic, whose most in­ter­est­ing ideas have all been done be­fore by bet­ter, more mem­o­rable writ­ers. Saxon Bul­lock

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