I recently finished two Adam Roberts novels back-to-back. I’ve been a fan of Adam Roberts since his 2000 debut, Salt, I have always felt that his novels were markedly different to traditional science fiction, and from first to latest have not disappointed.
The first book, Yellow Blue Tibia, is more ‘alternative history’ than ‘Science Fiction’, starting in the post-war Soviet Union and then moving to the end of the Cold War era and Chernobyl.
Mr Roberts must have been channeling Philip K. Dick when he came up with the idea behind this story and then injected a large dose of humour, to give us a tale of UFOs, conspiracy theory, Russian stoicism, the questioning of reality, misleading of the public by the government, murder and even Scientologists, narrated by a world-weary, cynical protagonist with a glib attitude to life and others.
The quirky dialogue and often times bizarre turn of events often had me chuckling to myself as the story unfolded. The twists and turns of the story leave you not quite knowing if the UFOs / aliens are real, or human-fabricated. The dark and cynical humour finally gives way to an ending that itself is not particularly surprising, but gives the meaning behind the title and other elements of the story.
Overall, an interesting premise, and a great level of humour throughout. Well worth a read.
The second book, New Model Army, is an exploration of the use of technology to enable a “people’s democracy”, and how this would give rise to the technologically-empowered, democratically-directed, paramilitaries required to stop the ‘old order’ from re-asserting control; the titular New Model Armies (NMA).
Opening with an account of the battle of Basingstoke, where an NMA contracted by a Scottish Parliament seeking independence, routs a larger force of British Army regulars, we get a different look at modern combat and the effects on the human mind.
The story is one of the realisation and power of a ‘true democracy’ over the pseudo-democracy, and rigid hierarchy, of today, a nod to the ‘power to the people’ ideals of our pasts, yet a far cry from the ‘disorganised’ rallies of recent years as the NMAs use modern technology to the full; group comms, geo-tagging, wikis, crowd-sourced decision making, etc. to form a flexible, competent, fighting force.
New Model Army feels a little hurried towards the end, and I’m not sure if this is a function of the sub-300 pages and the easy reading style, or if this is intended by the author to reflect the narrator’s state of mind. I suppose that another reading will be required to really understand that for myself.
There are some interesting ideas here, building to a truly new idea of the future. Another book worth taking a look at 🙂