SAVANT Bureaucracy gone berserk
released OUT NOW! 354 pages | Paperback/ebook
Author Nik abnett Publisher solaris
Procedures and protocols exist for perfectly sound reasons; any big organisation would grind to a halt if it had to reinvent the wheel for each new case. But knowing that doesn’t stop the sound of a customer-service script being recited down the phone feeling vaguely Kafkaesque.
In an SF setting, these frustrations can become art. When a chance (perhaps) observation and a student’s confusion trigger enhanced surveillance from the faceless overseers of Service, the bureaucratic nightmare in which maths professor Tobe and his assistant Metoo become embroiled has shades of Douglas Adams or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. While this novel never reaches the absurdist heights of either of those, there’s plenty of amusement and a certain ghoulish fascination on offer in its picture of a system that fails to understand or account for human behaviour.
The prose style is infodumpy to an off-putting degree – deliberately apeing, perhaps, the nuance-free system it’s evoking – but watching this train come off the rails under the pressure of its own logical-illogic is bizarrely compelling, page-turning stuff, even if Nik Abnett doesn’t quite stick the landing. Nic Clarke
Yep, Nik Abnett’s husband is Dan Abnett; they’ve previously collaborated on several Warhammer novels.