Alchemy Press, p/b Â£11.99, h/c Â£20.00, LINK
Reviewed by David Brzeski
â€œBig Brother is Watching you!â€ This is the first thing that entered my mind when I started reading this book. Except itâ€™s not Big brother. Itâ€™s that older kid who used to demand you hand over your lunch money in the school playground. Itâ€™s 2030 and Rod Rees has extrapolated from the direction our increasingly surveillance obsessed society is heading.
The story is very effectively told through the alternating viewpoints of Jenni-Fur: a rebellious musician who refuses to submit to cybernetic implants that would enable the government to monitor her every thought, and Sebastian Davenport: an employee of the National Protection Agency. These viewpoints are interspersed with online news service reports, government documents etc.
The real strength here is that Davenport is not the bad guy. In fact heâ€™s a good man, who happens to work for the government. As time goes on, he becomes more and more concerned about the methods his bosses employ to further their cause.
Jenni-Fur (aka: Jennifer Moreau) is a journalist by day, and by night a singer/sax player in a nuBop band. They play a sort of jazz/techno cross. nuBoppers tend to be in their late teens and have developed a patois based on early jazz jive talk. It took me a few pages to get into the style of Jenni-Furâ€™s journal entries, but it gelled soon enough.
Jenni-Fur is sent to interview a young â€œGeeâ€. Gees (obviously a contraction of refugees) are basically anyone not English, blamed by the government media for pretty much anything and everything, they have been forced into ghettos. Peter Ashe, the current BritsFirst Prime minister is pushing forward a referendum to have them all repatriated, despite the fact that this would mean certain death for huge numbers of them. The â€œGeeâ€ in question is 17 year old Ivan Nitko, who has come to the attention of the public by breaking the World stone-skimming record with a seemingly impossible 75 skips.
Ivan is a genius. He freely admits that his stone had a propulsion device inside it. A device, with no moving parts, which runs on water and produces vast amounts of energy. His stone-skimming record was simply a way of bringing his invention, cleverly named â€œINVENT-10Nâ€ to the attention of the government. INVENT-10N could mean freedom from reliance on fossil fuels with no detrimental effect on the environment. He wants to make a deal. Heâ€™ll give INVENT10N to the government in return for the dropping of the Patriot Projectâ€”the enforced repatriation of all Gees. Much to the N.P.A.â€™s disgust, he insists on making Jenni-Fur his agent in the negotiations.
Sebastian Davenport is installed as the N.P.A.â€™s official interface with Nitko and Jenni-Fur. As time passes, he witnesses more and more things that disturb him about the N.P.A., and becomes ever closer to Jenni-Fur.
INVENT10N becomes a huge success, although the Christian right in Russia refuse to have anything to do with it. Inevitably, things go very wrong. The final chapter of the book, in which we learn the true secret of INVEN-10N is unexpected, and truly chilling.
Rod Rees has invented a very believable possible future in this fascinating novel. We can only pray that he doesnâ€™t share Alan Mooreâ€™s experiences, when he saw the many of the things he predicted in â€˜V for Vendettaâ€™ become reality not so very long after he wrote it.