Barricade is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the “Reals” – humans gradually dying from radiation sickness and other diseases, fight the “Ficials” – artificially engineered, genetically superior life-forms who were created to serve mankind.
Kenstibec is one of the Ficials – a Rover Power Nine model, created for construction duties. The book intersperses flashbacks of his past – where he worked on enormous tower blocks, and his present – where he’s working as a chauffeur of kinds, ferrying people around the war-torn landscape of the UK, trying to help wipe out the remaining Reals. His current job is Starvie – a pleasure model, who is now working as a journalist, who needs him to get her from Edinburgh to London.
This is an intense novel, filled with action, violence, humour and generates real pathos for the Ficials – created expressly to serve and treated as slaves. Their rise against mankind is depicted sympathetically – Kenstibec is initially unwilling to move from construction to murder, but is forced to by the all-powerful Control. The philosophical debates that this could spark are many, but Wallace addresses them adeptly in his writing.
There are a great many post-apocalyptic tales out there, but this one stands above most.