Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.
Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.
So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.
What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.
The Thing Itself is evidence of Adam Roberts' inimitable brilliance.
Personally, I found it deeply fascinating...The closest reference point for me was Philip K. Dick's VALIS trilogy which fits in the same general literary area but "The Thing Itself" is definitely much more fun.
Upcoming 4 Me
The kind of elegantly playful fun at which Roberts, almost routinely it seems, excels.
This is witty, smart, cleverly structured and, like the master's finest films, hooks the reader from the opening moments and never lets go. Dial M for Marvelous.
using lit-fic techniques and by not playing by the genre rules, [Roberts] rises to the challenge that Mitchell sets down
As ever, Roberts's use of the genre to explicate ideas - the allure of virtual reality and the consequent aff ectless society - is done with grace and economy, and what might have been a grim read is leavened by moments of irreverent black humour.
An antic collision of Agatha Christie and British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror... Smart, deliciously witty and immensely engaging, it is Roberts at his playful best.
James Bradley, author of Clade
I do appreciate a novel that makes me think while also entertaining me. The Thing Itself marries the two to perfection. There is so much packed within these pages and, without doubt, it's one of those memorable novels that will stand to repeated readings over the passing of time. A book of the year for me, for sure.
For Winter's Nights
The Real-Town Murders is thoughful, clever and effortless fiction that successfully blends hardboiled noir with near-future scifi to create a rich, rewarding story. Highly recommended.
A time-travelling nerd applies Kant with lethal results in this dazzling philosophical adventure...this is really walking the literary high wire, and Roberts not only keeps his balance, he makes the spectacle compelling
Gripping and ingenious.
A gleeful homage to future noir.
The sort of chase thriller that Hitchcock used to film.