The threat of a funding cut from the shadowy government agency supporting the Lazarus Project - a quantum machine that can emulate the human mind - leaves scientists Hammond Hinkley and Addison Royale in a predicament: demonstrate quick (and militarily useful) results to their backers or watch the plug pulled on the project that has preoccupied them for so many years. This leads to the hasty decision to digitize Hammond’s mind into Flux, his own largely untested machine, despite the risks known and unknown.
After some initial orientation complications, Hammond’s virtual-world journey starts well enough. London is transformed into a lurid psychedelic dreamscape of shiny towers and sex orgies as Hammond finds growing confidence living as his cyber self. The Shard becomes his office replete with rooftop helipad, while the Dungeon of Unrestrained Desire allows him to explore all the perverse pleasures he can imagine, free from the constraints of real world relationships (and physics). But this heady pleasure trip doesn’t last long in this contemporary British science fiction story and one of the most exciting debut novels of 2017.
Fueling digital Hammond’s ascent to megalomania is the assistant, Gary, the remnant of an earlier experimental subject digitized into Flux who becomes his Man Friday. Also within Flux, a commanding boss-like character called Shinkley, weirdly distorted versions of his wife, his best friend, and an Irish wolf hound who represents his animal soul.
Back in the real world, there is an undercurrent of sexual tension with Hammond’s desire for colleague Addison Royale, who seems oblivious to his mildly flirtatious behavior. This passion looms large in the Flux version of Hammond, while his actual wife and newborn child are relegated to a mere robotic nuisance. When Flux’s funders, represented by the overbearing bully Jack Rance, and his paymasters - the governmental power-player, Chinnery - threaten to close down Flux, this apocalyptic AI tale takes an innovative twist on the man versus machine narrative.
This gripping tale leaves you wondering just how far from our current reality the story is.