Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter

Published: May 1, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Pages: 223

Synopsis: The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind, but a good detective is never obsolete.

London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel.

And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.

Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.

Thoughts: First and foremost, I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For me, science fiction books can be quite hit or miss, so I was a little hesitant at first to give this one a go. In the end, I decided to give it a shot. So, was it worth it? I mean, I can say that I finished it, whereas the last book I was reading was actually the last in a series and I gave up on it, so that's certainly saying something. 

But, let's get down to some more significant details. For about the first 3/4 of this book, I was pretty into it, despite the story itself being somewhat derivative. I've certainly read books and seen movies with similar themes - Blade Runner, Scythe, Warcross, Ready Player One, to name a few. You know, the omnipresent technology, hard-boiled detective murder mystery, technology gone wrong, that sort of thing. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything too original to be honest, but at the same time the story was intriguing and the main character, Carl, developed enough to keep you invested. 

It certainly makes you think about how technology is becoming so ever-present in the world, and how things could become similar to this world without too many leaps of the imagination. The idea that 3D printers could be used for such nefarious means definitely makes you think twice about them becoming more ubiquitous, that's for sure. The author also features non-binary gendered characters that go by "ve" and "ver" that will at first make you think there are typos until you realize what's going on, and then you become used to it. 

But what happens 3/4 of the way through that I previously mentioned, you ask? Firstly, there's a random chapter in there that makes you question Dremmler and the entire book, that is never really referenced again. What was the point? It could've been removed and nothing would've been lost, or it should've been referenced again at some point. I won't say what exactly, but you'll know it if and when you read it. 

On top of that, the book moves at a nice pace up until that point, and then just shoots through the ending at a confusing and fast pace and... the plot goes a bit off the rails. There's this weird sexual stuff, which I suppose isn't entirely out of nowhere given the prevalence of other sexual themes throughout, but still was off-putting. And the ending itself just kind of... ends. It's a cliffhanger that leaves the reader to decide what may happen next, which can work in some cases, but after so much uncertainty with what may be real or not already, it would've been nice to have a clearer ending.

That said, if you enjoy reading hard-boiled detective novels set in a semi-dystopian future, you may enjoy this book. The writing itself is good, and the mystery keeps you engaged even though you may have an idea where it's going. 

Rating: 3/5

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What I'm Reading Next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

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