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Adam Roberts is the author of a growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. This site contains not just his blog, but everything you could ever want to know about everything Adam has ever published. And more...

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Scotsman on Sunday on SF

By Adam Roberts | June 22, 2010
Categories: Reviews

newmodelarmyb
A very nice piece from Stuart Kelly on New Model Army, Kraken and The Restoration Game (Scotsman on Sunday, June 20 2010):

IF I were to say that these three novels dealt, respectively, with how technology is changing the nature of self and democracy; the politics of belief in the postmodern city; and the ramifications of Bostrom's simulation hypothesis for ethics and the philosophy of being, then you'd be forgiven for thinking this newspaper had turned into Critical Quarterly.

Likewise, if I said these three novels were about a "giant" waging war on Basingstoke; the miraculous disappearance of a giant squid; and a computer game about a real but non-existent Soviet state - and the dark goings-on therein - then you'd be equally at liberty to think this was SFX.

This is one of the great ironies of contemporary literature: the books that ask the deepest and most profound questions tend to be situated in the most marginalised of genres. Even writers in the field are tired by the labels and the schisms around them - is this fantasy or sci-fi, steam-punk or alt-history? - and if it weren't for the shelving policy of bookstores, we might as well just call them all literature.

The "giant" in Adam Roberts's New Model Army is called Pantegral, and it's not a single entity. In the near future, new armies have developed through a combination of flash-mobbing, crowd-sourcing and wireless connections. Volunteers - genuine volunteers, not conscripts - come together to achieve objectives, then melt back into "civilian" life as they choose. This radical, freelance and truly democratic army has been hired by the Scottish Government as part of the Succession War: cheekily, Roberts posits a crisis in devolution when Prince William dies, and the Scots and Welsh demand Prince Harry has a paternity test before assuming the role of Prince of Wales. The protagonist tells us in the opening line that he is "not the hero of this story" as, under interrogation, he describes how the New Model Armies work.

The brilliantly detailed concept is balanced by terrific action scenes in the "suburban catastrophe" style of HG Wells or JG Ballard. Every bus stop becomes a fox-hole; each multi-storey car-park a bunker. And Roberts suggests, eerily, that the New Model Army might just be an interim stage as humanity comes to term with its new collective capacity.

Kelly says some equally insightful things about Mievelle and MacLeod.

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3 Comments to-date;

3 Responses to “Scotsman on Sunday on SF”

  1. Drinking coffee ‘can protect you from cancers’ | Tea Says:
    June 27th, 2010 at 8:55 am

    [...] Scotsman on Sunday on SF | http://www.AdamRoberts.com [...]

  2. Scotsman 370 Lbs Capacity 22 Says:
    August 21st, 2010 at 6:45 am

    [...] Scotsman on Sunday on SF And Roberts suggests, eerily, that the New Model Army might just be an interim stage as humanity comes to term with its new collective capacity Kelly says some equally insightful things about Mievelle and MacLeod. [...]

  3. Jp Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Not that I touch the unionist rag but I think you'll find it's 'Scotland on Sunday'.

    I picked up a second hand copy of Polystom and hope to start reading it soon.

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