a rookie cop Officials assigned to monitor a refugee group try to figure out if the refugees were framed for terrorism – and where the real killers lurk. This is technically an accurate depiction of the plot of David Musgrave’s debut novel, lambda. Sounds easy, right? But from its first page, lambda It’s doing something weirder and clunkier, ditching the linear narrative and setting the story in another world, Britain, where you might get into trouble with the police for breaking your talking toothbrush.
exist lambdaIn the bizarre world of 2019, artificial intelligence has advanced so much that “sentient objects” have been granted rights, including the aforementioned toothbrush, aka ToothFriendIV.Meanwhile, police tested an artificial intelligence system that could either charge someone with a crime or go on to assassinate them, though the government prefers to call it that Mitigate, neutralize, stopor Institution closedIt might sound like a Philip K. Dick parody, but Musgrave’s debut is more ambitious than the tropes it borrows, arranging them into original and engaging literary science fiction.
lambda Follow a cop named Cara Gray as she is all too familiar with the official term for murder. After she abruptly trades the life of a left-wing commune activist for detective work, she joins the police force and then ends up getting involved in a shady government scheme involving a gangster in the desert called the Republic of Severax Cybercriminal paradise. Her personal life is as chaotic as her professional entanglements. She dates a world-weary programmer named Peter who is obsessed with two things, neither of which are her: a talking toothbrush and Severax. (Musgrave is pictured in a photo with Peter as a special kind of trash bag technician whose main character trait is interrupting the documentary to add to his two cents.)
Carla is not a futuristic Colombo – her work is horribly touching. After her first assignment as a police officer went awry, she was transferred to a project to monitor lambdas, a group of about 100,000 mysterious people who were genetically human but evolved to be extremely small, semi-aquatic, Has tails instead of legs and an inscrutable social structure. By the time she entered this rhythm, there had been extensive institutional efforts to integrate these lambdas into society. We learn that they started arriving on the coasts of Iceland and the UK several years ago, with only a vague idea of how they got there. They knew they had swum from somewhere, and that their voyage included dodging hungry Greenland sharks; some of them spoke vaguely of their parents, who were only known as “Four Pairs.”
In the years since they first emerged, lambdas have assumed refugee-like status, with government aid helping them get around, find housing and jobs. But anti-lambda sentiment continued to grow as Carla got to know the beleaguered crowd, who lived in deliberately flooded basement apartments and called each other “brothers” and “sisters.” They are often attacked en route to low-paying service jobs, and many become timid. Cara bonds with an eccentric, friendly lambda named Gavin, who is desperate to learn more about his parents, and whose fear of being murdered by angry, xenophobic ‘hometown’ vigilantes looms large every day deepen. Although her supervisor expressly forbids it, Carla agrees to get in touch with an Icelandic researcher who might help Gavin discover the source of his submersion.
It’s a lot of plot, and Musgrave’s stylistic choices are as Byzantine as his narrative choices. The use of an alien figure as an allegory for an oppressed population isn’t exactly groundbreaking—it probably makes up half of science fiction—but the writing itself is clear, bold, and weird. Paragraphs in Kara’s journey from activist to police officer to almost back are interrupted by commercial-style pages informing readers where we’re getting our “Try EyeNarrator Pro Free.” (These snippets exude a strong whiff of a George Saunders short story.) The opening EyeNarrator paragraph suggests that the story we’re reading is software-generated prose, and Musgrave alludes to this inconsistency through a decidedly odd choice of language. Too human narration. The characters’ blood pressure levels are mentioned, and the action is described in bizarre technical language: “Caroline rotates 12 degrees counterclockwise” reads in one sentence. Another: “Kara’s saccade absorbs a woman’s highly reflective brown iris.” The book may have set a world record for the use of the word “saccade,” which pops up with surprising frequency, considering it’s never been said.
There’s also a series of monologues — books open and close as they go, and they run through — from a mysterious figure named “Mr.” Hi. These blunt, melancholic monologues describe Mr. Hello’s unconventional upbringing and lonely lifestyle, reminiscent of scenes from an interview with a host. west world, when naive robots happily babble about truths they can’t really understand. In fact, in tone, lambda have a lot in common west world, good and bad – it’s crammed full, clever, occasionally clunky, and sometimes completely off track.major disappointment lambda is its ending, which lacks a satisfying summary of an A-level true crime story. Instead, it leaves many loose ends—a full plot point edge.
Still, where it fails to effectively solve the mystery, lambda It’s dazzling in its ingenuity and ability to evoke emotions. I only read it for the first time last week, and I barely remember the slender ending. But the evocative images Musgrave evokes from an unbalanced world will linger.