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RE-COIL ***
Written by J.T. Nicholas.
RRP: £8.99 338 pp

Out now from Titan Books.

 

 

The idea of a digitised consciousness being uploaded into a new body upon the event of death is a neat one that was popularised by Richard Morgan’s novel ALTERED CARBON, featuring the character Takeshi Kovacs. This spin on immortality was further explored in its sequels and its recent Netflix adaptation as the character looked back on a long life of violence and regret that spanned the galaxy. Author J.T. Nicholas attempts to put his own spin on the concept here in this novel that is equal parts action adventure and conspiracy thriller but with little else story wise to support its borrowed concept of immortality in the future.

 

Forgoing the soul searching aspects that were very much part of Morgan’s novels, Nicholas instead commits to a nuts and bolts thriller that offers up much in the way of neat technological detail and a sideways look at the tantalising technological issues of transhumanism, augmented artificial intelligence and those of gender and self identity that pop up as a result of it.

 

The plot involves one Carter Langston, a salvage operator who comes across a derelict ship that is drifting towards the sun. On board he finds a crew of seemingly dead bodies then quickly winds up dead himself only to be reborn months later in a new “coil”, the term used here for designated bodies for a digitally backed up consciousness to be uploaded into. Carter then finds himself at the heart of a conspiracy as he tries to uncover what happened to himself and his own crew on that fateful voyage. Joining him on his quest is his fellow crew mate and hacker Chan, a woman who struggles with her own new, and very much male coil.

 

This is a far future adventure taking in concepts that are relevant today. The issues that come with re-coiling are very much financially based; “You did what you had to in order to keep your insurance premiums paid” Carter remarks, detailing an aspect of life that once taken for granted is now in the hands of big business corporations. Not just corporations but what is referred to here several times as “Megacorps” who in some cases have replaced nations, staking claim to planets and colonising the galaxy. These explorations of big business and the nuts and bolts of setting up and living an immortal life are some of the book's strongest points. The issues of big business running rampant over humanity lead onto brief looks at quantum entanglement and mechanics in an accessible way that does not get in the way of the book's plot.

 

Such weighty ideas however do little to disguise that this is quite a lightweight story. As well as cribbing ideas from Richard Morgan it leads onto a climax that is very much reminiscent of LEVIATHAN WAKES, the first novel in THE EXPANSE series that also has its own television series. Unlike those books however it never really gets to grips with its subject matter, rendering it quite shallow in comparison. The characters, aside from Chan, all have very little going on underneath the surface.

 

Its unoriginality aside, it proves a brisk and entertaining read. With a number of plot threads left dangling by its conclusion Nicholas may improve with any potential sequel or follow up he has in mind.

 

Iain MacLeod.

 

 

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