It’s book review corner once again! And today that corner is very dark indeed…
I met Matt Adcock on Twitter as part of an awesome and active science-fiction and cyberpunk community, and we agreed to do a ‘book swap’ to read and review each other’s recent genre outings. Matt’s debut novel, Complete Darkness, tells the story of Cleric20, a hedonistic tough guy who might be the only person able to save a post-apocalyptic London (now called L2) after scientists discover that the mysterious dark matter that clogs the universe is, in fact, Hell itself… and that the demons dwelling within it have already set their takeover plans in motion! Read on for my thoughts on this blisteringly entertaining and highly original novel.
One of the quotes on the front cover describes the book as ‘an adrenaline shot into your mind’, and I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. Matt Adcock’s novel feels like it can barely contain its ideas, with copious footnotes required to elaborate on many of the individuals, organisations, historical events and technological innovations that comprise its enthralling world. It’s almost as though the words and characters are desperate to burst out of the pages; reading it feels like being blasted in the face with a futuristic laser cannon, in an entirely good way.
I don’t want to give away too many of the writer’s innovations, but as an example of one of my favourites, a game show where 999 competitors attempt to murder the current leader, who is granted infinite money in their bid to survive while enjoying the fruits of their successful slaughter of their predecessor – all broadcast for public entertainment of course – is one of many fiendish creations that await you.
I also won’t spoil the main story; indeed, it would greatly diminish the enjoyment of the book to consume its plot in summarised form. Suffice to say that the novel takes the weighty subjects of high technology and theology and smashes them together like particles launched through the Hadron Collider. But, compelling as the main narrative is, the real joy here is in immersing yourself in the bonkers sci-fi debauchery of Matt Adcock’s world, and enjoying the blistering and often hilarious set pieces that drive the novel along. This is a world of violence, decadence, wise-cracks and misfiring technology, a relentless action onslaught that will have you racing breathlessly to its last page.
This sense of urgency is complemented by the novel being told in the present tense, with a number of fourth-wall-breaking addresses made direct to the reader to further pull you into the unfolding chaos. The writing style itself is witty and arch, highly reminiscent of the work of Iain M. Banks, and also Philip K Dick at his psychedelic best. Further parallels with Banks exist in the cast of ruthless and corrupt politicians, AIs and military leaders, whose attempts to out-scheme one another meet with a variety of (often laugh-out-loud funny) sticky ends.
The lead characters, Cleric20 and his long-suffering robot sidekick GiX, are a fun duo whose company and chemistry I thoroughly enjoyed. The chronicle of their misadventures was the perfect vehicle for a whistle-stop tour of L2 in 2242, a resurgent future London where New Tottenham have won the Soccer Premiership for twenty consecutive years and shadowy betting syndicates gamble upon the fates and life expectancies of drug-addled citizens. We will join our unlikely heroes in seedy nightclubs, accompany them as they dodge showers of toxic rain, and follow them through teleporters with a 99.9% likelihood of successful reassembly. It really is a roller-coaster ride, told with an evident enthusiasm that makes you root for the author as much as the protagonists.
The book is presented as the first of a series, and I really hope the writer follows up with more stories set in the Dark Matters universe. There is an almost endless scope here, whether revisiting Cleric20 and GiX, or taking us to other parts of L2 and the ravaged world beyond. The tone, feel and frenetic pace of the series has been set perfectly here, and I would recommend Matt Adcock’s work to anyone who likes big ideas, big set pieces, big explosions, big chunks of gore, big robots, or big concepts expressed with skill, passion and humour.
I’d like to thank Matt Adcock for giving me the opportunity to review his ace book, and direct you towards his Twitter feed @Cleric20. You can also find out more about the Dark Matters universe at www.completedarknessnovel.com.
That’s all from me for this week – I’ll see you again soon for some more random musings! In the meantime, I wish you the very best of luck in staying away from the darkness…