Robots, gods, simulated selves and little England dominated the second half of my summer reads. Here are four of the best:
The Red Men by Matthew De Abatiua
Anyone who has ever adopted a different persona online will find Matthew De Abatiua’s The Red Men uncomfortable reading. The story of the rich and powerful paying a corporation, with the help of an artificial intelligence, to copy their minds and simulate their selves in the digital realm is a dark commentary on online trolls today. The novel’s title red men are souped up versions of today’s trolls, capable of terrorising in real life too, but the ease with they diverge from their originals is a stark warning to anyone who has an unlikeable online alter ego—digital actions have consequences, too.
Arrival of the Missives by Aliya Whiteley
This feminist story from small press Unsung Stories could easily have been passed down from daughter to daughter to teach this generation about the importance of knowing one’s own mind, such is the power with which Aliya Whiteley instills in the protagonist. Her resoluteness in the face of the patriarchs in this story, including her father and love interests, propels the strange story about messengers from the future (or another world or dimension—this definitely requires two readings) forward to its war-cry ending.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
A simply perfect satire of America’s love of its gods. American Gods brings the likes of Odin and Loki together with dozens of other gods and demons to challenge the rise of modern deities, including the internet and television, as America sheds its love of the old and devotes itself to the new. American Gods a story full of fables from the societal soup that is those lands and they mix easily, effortlessly describing the country that has arisen in both cynical and hopeful terms, placing it perilously on the edge between madness and sanity, and still unsure which way it will tip.
Made to Kill by Adam Christopher
A robot assassin whose memory only lasts a day uncovers a Soviet conspiracy at the heart of an alternative history Hollywood. Made to Kill is a rich noir that borrows heavily from Raymond Chandler to ground the advent of robotics in Cold War era America. The paranoia of the day is set beautifully against the dry wit of lead robot Raymond Electromatic, whose lack of anything resembling an emotion makes this, at time, an unsettling read.