Invent-10n by Rod Rees (book review).

It is always good to see an author who is prepared to experiment and to do it with relative success. So many avant guarde novels fail at the first hurdle, which is to entertain the reader at the same time as playing with words, concepts and formats. One of the best in recent years is ‘The Raw Shark Texts’ by Steven Hall.

The background to the story in ‘Invert-10n’ is fifteen years on from now and, considering the current refugee status in Europe, scarily prophetic. Certain towns such as Blackpool and Scarborough have been given over to migrants or Gees. These have been fenced off from the rest of the country. UK citizens can go in, Gees cannot leave. Although life in the enclaves is tough, they are free from the constant surveillance the rest of the country has to put up with. Political correctness has gone mad. Just swearing or dressing inappropriately can earn demerits or bennies (Benign Index Score). Too many and you get punished. So to let your hair down, you visit the enclaves where surveillance is banned.


The two main characters are Jennifer Moreau and Sebastian Davenport. They are total opposites but are both keeping a journal. The former is the singer in the band Jenni-Fur and the Joy Poppers. Jenni-Fur performs in the enclaves where she can dress provocatively and diss the government in the lyrics of her songs. She is a kind of futuristic punk. In her day-job, she is a journalist. Sebastian works for the government on the National Protection Agency. Jenni-Fur writes her journal on an old fashioned typewriter because there is no way that it can be hacked and her privacy violated. Sebastian uses conventional methods, such as a computer for his. Her’s is full of politically incorrect comments and slang, his is written in proper English.

The event that takes them both to Scarborough where Ivan Nitko, a Russian deportee, wins the World Stone Skimming Championship. Not remarkable in itself but the question of cheating is raised. Both Jenni-Fur and Sebastian are sent to investigate. Ivan is quite open. He won with Invent-10n. The device generates power using only water. This is almost free energy. Ivan, a recluse, appoints Jenni-Fur as his agent and publicist. Sebastian is instructed to get examples of the device so that government labs can dissect and reproduce them. Ivan is very happy for them to try and will supply as many units as are required for political concessions but he has to activate all units. All sides see an advantage and are willing to give concessions.

To separate the two opposing accounts of events, the journals are presented in different typefaces, as if they were produced in the ways suggested. The extracts are interspersed with other items such as security transcripts, news reports, propaganda, history texts and other items which together provide a snapshot of future Rees has envisioned. Some of these enhance the book, others are over wordy and boring. To have impact, there should perhaps have been less of them. The other problem is that Jenni-Fur’s journal is highly spiced with slang and although this is meant to give street-cred to the writing, it is rather overwhelming, especially at the start.

This book is very mixed in its success. Some readers will be enthralled, others irritated by it. The vision of the future is bleak but indicative of the thinking of some sections of the population. Above all, this book is a brave attempt at being different and, like Jenni-Fur, Rees does not want to follow the herd.

Pauline Morgan

September 2015

(pub: Alchemy Press, Cheadle, UK, 2013. 218 page book. Price: £20.00 (UK) signed hardcover, £10.99 (UK) paperback. ISBN: 978-0-9573489-5-0)

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