This book is set to be published on January 18th, 2022.
The blurb for this book does not hold back when it comes to mixing up names. It says that The Hunger Games meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy here, and it also mentions Lord of the Flies and Philip K. Dick. That’s quite an interesting mixup, and since I’ve read the Hitchhiker, the Hunger Games, Lord of the flies and quite a few books of PKD (ubik being one of my favorites), I felt well prepared.
Read the interview with James Breakwell!
And was instantly surprised when I’ve met one of our the Protagonist, a rather old twelve year old (he’s been twelve for at least 4000 days now) who’s trying his best not to be killed by a door on his way to visit God, who apparently lives in a coffee machine. (Strange enough, I find that last part highly believable, coffee addict that I am.) And this really sets the tone on the humour that’s going to be used throughout the book.
There’s more to this than crude humour, but there’s an abundance of it. Some of it is more philosophical, some is just nonsense (the funny kind). And with this apocalyptical setting, it is there to counter the darker notes, hinting at some dystopian futures. Sadly, those two things at times clash. Because some of the stuff is so nonsensical that it’s easy to miss the point when the story wants you to take it in earnest again. It’s like, are you still joking or is this for real now? I think that balance is not well maintained throughout the story.
So the humour is where the Hitchhiker blends in. And the fact that they are dappling in simulations had me questioning if those events where truly happening at all, or if we were already looking into a simulation. Since Philip K. Dick was mentioned in the blurb: If you’ve read A Maze of Death, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Hunger Games are easy to spot, too, because there is a lander primed to go down to the planet with twelve seats – and twentytwo people wanting in. Lord of the flies is a different matter, though. There are at some point two factions, but it’s probably not the same group dynamic as in Golding’s classic.
- Hunger Games: ✅
- Hitchhiker: ✅
- Philip K. Dick: ☑️ (in spirit)
- Lord of the Flies: ☑️ (in spirit)
Philip K. Dick might be present in spirit (it’s that “questioning of reality” vibe), and so is Lord of the Flies. Then again you could almost use it as a reference every time you see one group of people splitting into two factions.
If you’re really needing another reference to pop culture, then I would point you to Stanley Kubrick and his Space Odyssey. Because I’m almost certain the digitales (what we would call artificial intelligences) in this book can trace their direct ancestry back to HAL. Wouldn’t be surprised, honestly.
So, what’s the final verdict? The story is interesting, but the fact that the view point switches rather often makes it hard for the story to grip you. And the humour that is really needed to counter the overall apocalyptical feeling is either inexistent on times, or totally nonsensical over the top. It is, sadly, lacking balance.
On the plus side is the inventiveness of the story, the really interesting setting and the ending. (No, I’m not going to spoiler here – but it felt fitting.) That brings me to 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars on sites that don’t support half stars.