Title: The Rig
Author: Roger Levy
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: May 8th, 2018
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Page Count: 617 pages
The Rig is one of those books that I know a lot people will love for its sheer originality and exploration of complex themes, but just didn’t really work for me. It’s also one of those books that make me think, “Am I an idiot and/or need a degree in philosophy to enjoy this, or is the author just not presenting their themes very effectively”?
The first 100 pages is rampant with imagination (the first chapter alone deserves an award for being so damn memorable). Picture a future where humanity has ruined Earth to the point of no return. They decide set out to a whole new solar system, filled with hope and determined to do thing right this time. But these new planets aren’t the safe haven they’d dreamed of; each comes with its own share of problems–lethal diseases and infections on top of social conflict. So as technology evolves (at least in some respects), human lifespan becomes halved. And while health care is in constant development, it’s not enough to save everyone. So how do the doctors decide who gets first priority?
Enter AfterLife–a kind of a social networking site that allows its subscribers a second chance at life. When you find yourself on the brink of death, and the morticians/doctors find out that you have an implant in your brain called a “neurid”, your body gets frozen and your “data” uploaded onto AfterLife. At this point, the people in the System get to access the sordid details of your entire life and vote whether or not you deserve a “resurrection.” These people get a chance to play God, in a society that’s largely devoid of any faith, and this idea fits beautifully with the theme of religion that runs throughout the entire story. If you loved those futuristic episodes of Black Mirror that deal with social media, you’ll probably enjoy what this book initially offers.
And in this early part of the book, Levy juggles 3 vastly different plotlines with compelling ease–coming-of-age, murder mystery, and a man working in an underwater structure called a “rig”. The ideas are complex, the scope large, and the characters fascinating. I don’t often come across aneurotypical characters in SFF, so it was nice to see an autistic protagonist portrayed with humanity.
My problem with the story is that as you move away from this “honeymoon” phase–filled with new and exciting wonders–it begins to resemble a dry documentary. We get the rundown of gang wars, psychopathic characters doing psychopathic things, and the mystery of the rigs, which should have been engrossing, but I just felt rather disconnected from it all. A deeper exploration of the characters’ relationships would have helped; considering Alef and Pellenhorc’s friendship is at the heart of this story,we never really get beyond what was established in those first chapters. Then there’s the matter of the Rig itself being a metaphor for God, which I appreciated but wasn’t wholly impressed with.
“Appreciate” more or less sums up my feelings on this book. I appreciate what it tries to do and I appreciate that it exists. And I hesitantly recommend it to those who enjoy their sci-fi with a side of social and philosophical commentary.
Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review