Books

The Rig – Book Review

Welcome to the system. The concept of god has been abandoned and a new faith pervades: AfterLife. AfterLife is a lottery system that offers a random selection of people the chance to avoid death itself. Placed into suspended animation at the point of demise they wait in the sea of the planet Bleak until technology is able to cure them of the cause of their death.

But there’s a catch, every living person has an organic chip implanted in their brain at birth. These neurids record every second of their Lives, and now billions of subscribers will watch this unfold, voting on which Life gets a second chance at life. Everyone can judge and be judged, everyone can be offered resurrection or death. In the age of social media who needs god’s judgement when everyone is watching?

Publisher: Titan Books
Author: Roger Levy
Pages: 615
Price: £8.99

The Rig is not what I expected from the book at all. With the description of the book putting so much focus on AfterLife, on the concept of people voting on who would come back from the dead using mass social media I thought that this would be a story that would focus on that; the idea of faith, life after death, or how social media and mass opinion shape what people perceive as real. This wasn’t what the book gave me, however.

Whilst there are elements that examine faith in the future, looking at how the lives of those with religion differ from those who have abandoned it as an outmoded concept, and there is a certain amount of depth to the AfterLife system and the other services that work around it and in tandem with it, this is a mystery story at its heart. The Rig is a vast, multi-layered conspiracy story, a story of two men trying desperately to out manoeuvre each other, a game of chess that plays out over more than one lifetime.

I won’t go into too much detail about these elements of the plot, as giving away too much detail could spoil a number of surprises and some brilliant reveals, but I will say that for the third of the book it appears to be a very straight forward story, yet nothing is as it appears. The clues that something is amiss are there straight away, but are so subtle and well hidden that it never registered with me at the time, and wasn’t until I went back and looked over some of these early moments that I could see them for what they were.

There are four main stories involved in The Rig, one that is a recounting of the life of a troubled yet brilliant many Alef, and three others that appear separate, but become interconnected through the greater mystery; the journalist/storyteller Razer, the washed up police officer Bale, and the loner Tallen.

Once the book hits its second third the underlying mystery begins to become apparent as Razer, Bale, and Tallen are drawn into an extraordinary series of events that intertwine their lives and puts all three of them in incredible danger. Whilst it at first appears to be some kind of conspiracy story it isn’t until the book reaches the last third that you realise things are much bigger than even that, with ramifications that could go on to effect billions of lives.

Despite the vast scope of the story, and having to build a completely new and fantastical universe, the story is still very human, and manages to spend its time establishing very real, very flawed characters. There are very few, if any, purely ‘good’ people in this story. It isn’t a good vs evil tale with clear distinctions between heroes and villains. Instead, it’s a story driven by human desires and motivation. Yes, some of these do become twisted and lean more towards the ‘evil’ side of the spectrum, but you can see why people begin down certain paths and understand their reasoning’s.

This is something that helps to keep The Rig engaging and encouraged me to read on. Whilst some science fiction books will spend so much time developing their future world, or create such fantastical futuristic settings and technology to the point where it becomes difficult to connect with the characters and the story, here it is very much different. The world of The Rig has amazing and fantastic technology, and it’s set in a future where humanity has long left Earth behind, but these are background elements, and never feel overly intrusive.

The first chapter of the book, however, was a little difficult to get through. Being set on one of the worlds that if still ruled by religion, and using strange and unusual language, I did feel a little lost more than once in the first few pages. But, this passed quickly, and I was soon drawn into what became a very engaging and well written mystery tale. So, if you pick up the book and find yourself struggling through the first chapter, please, stick with it because it doesn’t stay that way for long, and the end result is well worth it.

The Rig is a science fiction story set within a universe vastly different from our own, with new language, new forms of government and entertainment, and a way of life that is fantastical, but it’s a story about people, about what they’re willing to do to achieve their goals, and what prices are worth paying to do so.

With a very human tale wrapped inside a well crafted and layered mystery, The Rig is a book that is sure to appeal to a much wider audience than simply those that enjoy science fiction.

The Rig is now available to buy from Titan Books.

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