SA­VANT Bu­reau­cracy gone berserk

SFX - - Reviews -

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.

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