An August event
RELEASED 18 OCTOBER 432 pages | Hardback/ebook/audiobook
Author steven erikson
When the aliens arrive, they’ll want to talk to the world’s leaders, won’t they? Not in Steven Erikson’s latest foray into SF, Rejoice (subtitle: A Knife To The Heart), a first contact novel that rests in part on the idea of an alien AI fetching up in the Solar System and deciding to abduct an SF novelist, Samantha August.
The god-like AI has come to our neck of the woods on a mission to save Earth’s biome. Seeing how humanity is greatly responsible for the depleted state of the natural world, this isn’t good news for those who work in, say, the logging, fracking or industriallevel agriculture sectors. More generally, this is an AI that’s seriously hardcore when it comes to stopping all activities we might associate with late-stage capitalism, to the extent of excluding humanity from areas of its own home planet.
Good news, you might think, except that as the AI uses its awesome power to stop conflict – whether that means wars or domestic violence – and protect the environment, it gradually becomes clear that it isn’t so sure that one species on Earth is worth saving: humanity. It’s August’s job to mediate what’s occurring, and make a crucial decision.
In many respects this is a familiar – even over-familiar – first contact scenario, but Erikson is far too good a writer not to find new angles. Some of the barbs at a bellicose American president certainly hit the target, while there’s an understated humour evident throughout, which often makes it seem as if Erikson is self-consciously tackling – and sometimes employing – first contact clichés as a way to get beyond them.
Nonetheless, this is also a novel where there’s far too much talking – especially the philosophical discussions between August and Adam on subjects such as James Lovelock’s ideas around Gaia – that doesn’t especially advance the plot. More seriously, in a novel where an AI can do just about anything, there’s a lack of narrative tension here – although perhaps that’s partly Erikson’s peacenik point. Jonathan Wright
Steven Erikson will be signing copies of Rejoice at Forbidden Planet’s London megastore on 25 October (6pm).