Bash Bash Revolution.
Lain, Douglas (author).
Mar. 2018. 300p. Night Shade, paperback, $14.99 (9781597809160).
First published February 15, 2018 (Booklist).
First published February 15, 2018 (Booklist).
Philip K Dick Award nominee, Lain presents an ominous, cautionary, AI dystopia that has much in common with Dick’s own Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It is 2017. Trump is President, Russia and North Korea are very real threats, and Matthew’s Dad has suddenly returned. He has been gone for a decade, working for the NSA on perfecting an AI known as Bucky; however, both the AI and the real world are unravelling, quickly. Matthew is recruited by his father to teach him the video game BASH BASH Revolution, as a way to work on perfecting Bucky. Told mostly in flashbacks, Matthew DMs his girlfriend [with a few unsettling interruptions from Bucky’s point of view], calmly explaining how the world has become what Matthew describes as a zombie movie but with gamers in VR goggles who are the undead. It is an intensely urgent, and terrifying story with a complex plot, but Matthew sucks readers in and pulls them along briskly, easily relating the hyper technical details while entertainingly unraveling the plot. It is a fun read, that is, until you close the book and start thinking about the implications of what you just experienced. Not only will you think twice before opening a game app on your phone after completing Lain’s novel, but you may also start wondering if we are already living as pawns to a superintelligent machine. This is not a cartoonish sketch, it is a realistic and bleak look at the post-singularity world. An easy suggestion for fans of current, accessible science fiction that thoughtfully contemplates AI such as Ready Player One or Sea of Rust, but it is also a great choice for those who enjoy John Scalzi’s narrative style.
YA Statement: Teens will be lured in to the novel by the video game frame, the artificial intelligence and government conspiracy details as well as the hyper current events, but they will stay for Matthew’s moral and philosophical journey as he tries to resist the AI takeover of humanity.
Further Appeal: The unsettling, thought provoking aspects of this book drove its appeal for me. Here are some notes I made while reading the book:
Is Matthew a reliable narrator; is the entire story the creation of Bucky; or are we already living in a world where superintelligent machines are in charge and we are simply pawns in a giant computer simulation? Can we even trust Matthew or has he been corrupted by Bucky?In my review I think I got the essence of these thoughts worked in, but I cannot stress enough how the hyper current events made everything feel real and scary and just so uncomfortably close.
Also, I make a mention of this book not being “cartoonish.” I say that because the cover does this book no benefit. It was way too playful for what is actually inside. I know I am a huge advocate of judging a book by its cover, but in this case, stay away from that instinct.
The science fiction aspects rule here, but there is a horror tone. Horror readers who like scientific frames and science fiction fans who enjoy a good scare should seek this one out.
Three Words That Describe This Book: unsettling, thought provoking, AI
Readalikes: I managed to work in 3 titles and an author readalike above. You can click on the three at the end of the review for many more readalikes by me from here on the blog.
You may find that fans of more technical science fiction with a focus on AI or VR like titles by Neal Stephenson or William Gibson might enjoy this one too. It would be a bit more fast paced and lighter option for those readers, but I think they would enjoy it if they knew that it was less dense going in. The ideas, tone, and themes are similar.
Also, another author who this reminded me of was Max Barry, especially Lexicon.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to Night Shade Books, a division of SkyHorse. They are a smaller publisher, but have great distribution through your normal ordering channels. Their lineup of speculative fiction never ceases to amaze me. They don’t have a huge promotional arm, but I can tell you from experience, these are genre titles that appeal to many library patrons. They publish new novels, important collections, and reissues of classics. One of my favorite books I read last year, In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson, was a Night Shade publication. I only know about these titles because they send them to Booklist and my editor passes them on. Here is the link to their upcoming titles. Give it a look.