An Andoid Awakes by Mike French and Karl Brown
This is a soon-to-be-published book (Nov 13th) which I had an advance reader copy of from the publishers.
Reading this book, the word that kept coming to mind was ‘kaleidoscope’, by which I mean those tube-like things we had as kids in the 60s where the arrangement of mirrors kept making completely new patterns out of the same elements.
The overall story here is of an android author who must submit novels to his publisher and has 42 attempts to get accepted or he gets deactivated. The story starts with the rejection of his 28th attempt and includes attempts 29 to 42 in their entirety, which makes 16 complete stories within the main story. (I know the maths doesn’t add up. There are reasons for that, which you have to read the book to find out).
As the book progresses you see the same character names cropping up in different roles and various motifs cropping up in different ways, hence the kaleidoscope metaphor, but you also see reflections of the android author’s life in the stories too.
If 16 novels in one volume sounds like heavy reading, bear in mind that the story is set in a time and place where paper is at a premium and so novels are limited to 1000 words, so by our standards they are short stories. Some of them work very well as short stories and feel like they could have been expended into ‘proper’ novels in their own right.
I do feel that there are enough ideas in the book to make several books – something I also felt when I read one of Mike French’s other books. The overall effect is to keep the novelty coming so that as well as fresh events you getting fresh character, scenarios and everything else every few pages which can get a bit exhausting but never boring. The frustration is when the story moves onto another idea but you feel there is still lots of extra mileage in the last one .
Along the way you meet some characters will stay with you for a long time, like the surreal Button Man who has a real League of Gentlemen bizarre scariness to him, and the superhero angels which somebody like Marvel would probably get an entire series of films out of.
But this isn’t just a novel, nor is it a graphic novel the way I understand it – which is just as well for me because I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels generally – but more of an illustrated novel. All the illustrations are in a graphic novel-type style, many of them with a similar feel to the old 2000 AD comic. Sometimes the pictures illustrate a character or part of the story very recognisably and in others they convey the atmosphere instead, which tends towards the dystopian.
You could just read the words and ignore the pictures but you would be missing out because although they don’t contain any plot they contribute greatly to the mood and tone of the book.