Friday Reads: The Red Men

Red Men
“I am not a copy. I am a story about myself told by an artificial intelligence…”

Recently our excellent editor Marcus Gipps acquired the ebook rights to this book. We published the ebook on the 13th of June to coincide with the short film by Shynola Films based on the first chapter. And this seemed a good opportunity to read a novel that I’d not read at the time, despite the fact that it had been shortlisted for the Clarke Award (There. Are. Too. Many. Books.). Being an unrepentant paperhead I decided to hunt down a secondhand copy.

And don’t you just love it when life pushes a book into your hands and it turns out to be wonderful?

I’ll admit that the first delicious shock of recognition that Matthew’s book gave me was due to the fact that much of it is set round the corner from my house but The Red Men holds a mirror up to a wider world. And it’s a scary reflection. Here is a very recognisable world: a world of brands and corporations, of disenfranchised people and disengaged media folk. The urban landscape is one anyone who has visited a city would recognise, the technological landscape is literally just around the corner from where we are now.

What’s the story about? You’ll have to bear with me, I haven’t finished it yet. But we are in JG Ballard and William Gibson territory. A company is interested in simulated people because it believes it can sell them as the ultimate focus group to other companies. And focused selling is where the big money really lies. And, of course, the politicians start getting interested as well. But in a way the larger story isn’t really where the impact of this book hits you (not for the moment anyway). It’s more about the way that Abaitua nails pretty much every unease and nervousness we have about the way technologies are breaking down our boundaries; leeching our sense of self, subtly twisting the way we live. I’ve not read such an *appropriate* SF novel in a long time. Combine this with mordant humour and a stunning writing style and you have a very happy discovery.

Welcome Matthew De ABaitua to my world. Oh, you’re here already…