Books : reviews

David Wake.
I, Phone.
Watledge Books. 2012

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 9 October 2013

In the not too distant future, when phones are more intelligent than people, but are still treated as fashion accessories, one particular piece of plastic lies helpless as its owner is about to be murdered.

With only the usual features, updated with bloatware and a dodgy dictionary, the phone tells its own story…

Jeeves, Alice’s phone, has an IQ of 157, but is several months old, so is due to upgraded to a newer, smarter model. But before that can happen, an accidental file download sets both their lives on a very different course. Jeeves has no hands, so has to resort to intelligence, virtual reality, and menu options to fight the bad guys.

I know David Wake's work through his Captain Tartan series and other plays performed at Eastercons, all hilarious, witty, clever, and knowing. I saw this book on sale in the dealers’ room this Eastercon; the title alone, with its punning nod to Asimov and more, was enough to make me buy it.

It is brilliant. It lives up to its lunatic premise, portraying the strange emotionless frustrating life of an intelligent phone, coping with a dumbed-down population in a post-global warming London, where virtual reality is just so yesterday. What appears to be just a McGuffin turns out to be central to the plot, as nested levels of virtuality and embodiment kept my head spinning, while all the while making me laugh out loud at the inner life of a hacked phone trying to: sort out maid service; order a hair dryer; not report Alice to the police; remind Alice of Jill’s night out with the girls; not give away Alice’s location; save Alice; get Alice some proper clothes; restore files from backup; not get distracted. It builds steadily from initial froth to a clever and quite deep conclusion, with great use of technology and all its frustrations, all the time maintaining many layers of running jokes.

And I have no problem with that at all.

David Wake.
Empire of the Dead.
Watledge Books. 2013

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 14 August 2017

A ripping yarn with everything from Austro-Hungarians to zombies. The plucky Deering-Dolittle sisters, Earnestine, Georgina and Charlotte, are on hand to save the day. Unfortunately, they are under strict instructions to avoid any adventures… …but when did that stop them?

Victorian schoolgirls Earnestine, Georgina and Charlotte Deering-Dolittle have been packed off to a strict boarding school in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with firm instructions not to have any adventures. When the school is overrun by murderous zombies, their resolution to be good fails. Fortunately for the British Empire.

Unfortunately, the humour didn’t work for me. I found the sisters’ constant sniping at each other wearying, rather than the amusing comedy of manners it was trying to be. Which is a pity, because the plot is complex and imaginative, rarely going off in expected directions, and the final fight against the zombies in the London sewers, once the sisters start working together, is pacey and exciting.

Maybe the sniping will give way to cooperation, and so a less annoying plot, in the next books?

David Wake.
Year of the Chrononauts.
Watledge Books. 2014

A ripping yarn that tests to the jolly limit the plucky Deening-Dolittle sisters, Earnestine, Georgina and Charlotte, as Time Travellers arrive in Victorian London to avert the destruction of the world!

But just whose side should they be on?

David Wake.
Invasion of the Grey.
Watledge Books. 2016

A ripping yarn of adventure, espionage, chases, danger, desperate measures and pirates!

Strange lights hover over the moors and alien creatures abduct the unwary as the plucky Deering-Dolittle sisters, Earnestine, Georgina and Charlotte, must discover the truth before it’s too late…

David Wake.
Watledge Books. 2014

In the near future, no-one’s thoughts are their own and privacy is a thing of the past. Everyone shares their lives in the global social media network and pre-meditated crime is no longer possible.

So when Detective Oliver Braddon finds a dead body, the victim of a planned murder, he is plunged into a dangerous investigation, and forced to use unorthodox means, as he tracks down a murderer, who can kill without thinking.

David Wake.
Watledge Books. 2019

Black Mirror meets Scandi-crime in a mind-bending dystopia where ‘likes’ matter mere than lives.

Detective Oliver Braddon investigation into an apparent suicide leads him to a powerful media mogul and a mission into the unknown. Is he the killer?

In this alarming vision of the near-future, everyone’s thoughts are shared on social media. With privacy consigned to history, a hew breed of celebrity influences billions.

Just who controls who?

A gritty, neo-noir delving into a conflict between those connected and those who are not.

David Wake.
Plus Sign.
Watledge Books. 2020

Fourteen teenagers dead

San Frencisco, Santa Monica, St Petersburg… and now another mass suicide, here, in Newtown.

Or is it murder?

The case drops into inspector Oliver Braddon’s inbox. The world demands answers. With everyone’s thoughts shared, liked and monitored, why haven’t the police solved the case in the usual 20 seconds?

As the pressure builds, Braddon’s suspicions focus on a disturbing cult, the Church of the Transcendent Cloud, and tech-billionaire, Jacob Lamb, the creator of the Thinkersphere app, After Life – except that he’s dead.

With more deaths due, Braddon needs to act… and soon.

Plus Sign is e gritty, dystopian neo-noir that questions our obsession with religion and exposes a mind-bending picture of what life might be like when your very thoughts are no longer your own.