Momenticon by Andrew Caldecott (book review).

May 27, 2022 | By | Reply More

Science Fiction has always reflected the concerns of the authors at the time of writing. When the possibility of a nuclear war was uppermost in minds, novels of the aftermath emerged, foretelling the struggles for survival after a nuclear winter. Whatever the global disaster, there will be SF writers picking their way through the remains. Current concerns deal with climate change. It way be ways of trying to stop it, as in Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy that begins with ‘Forty Signs Of Rain’. His novel ‘New York 2140’ is a realistic scenario of what could happen if we fail to control global warming. He is not the first to issue a dire warning through the medium of the SF genre, neither will he be the last.

In ‘Momenticon’, Andrew Caldecott starts from the premise that it is too late and with the warming of the planet, pollution has spiralled out of control. The air is unbreathable, resembling yellow murk. Insects have a capability for surviving in almost any condition, so domes of chitin have been constructed over dwelling places. As is the situation in a number of books of this kind, there are two rival organisations, both of whom think they can solve the problem but in totally different ways. Both corporations are family concerns, headed by an elderly patriarch, a fairly well worn trope. The focus of the novel, fortunately, is much more original.

Fogg is a young man who has found himself the sole curator of a museum which has no visitors. The museum contains all the important works of art that the world has produced. He has a talent and a skilled draughtsman and is able to reproduce any picture, scene or object that he has seen, even only briefly. He has been in the museum for three years. It is only after this time that he discovers Morag has also been living in the museum but deliberately keeping herself hidden. She is a creator of momenticons, developed as a form of entertainment. Made as a pill, swallowing one enables the viewer to step into a picture and see the subject in 3D as the artists would have seen it.

The three years marks the end of the truce between the two companies, Tempestas and Genrich, and plunges Fogg and Morag into jeopardy as both sides regard them as commodities that are useful. Using the momenticons, they are able to find clues to Wonderland and, in the process, encounter a number of surreal experiences. They discover that away from the chitin protection domes, towers are capable to protection small areas by neutralising the toxins in the air and making it safely breathable. In these, Tempestas is recreating particular works of art, especially those by Bruegel with people dressing in the costumes depicted in the paintings and going through the motions shown in them. The Genrich approach is to make automata and, although both sides think they want the same thing, they are effectively at war with Fogg and Morag caught in the middle.

This is a novel that is both silly and ingenious. It highlights the issues the world could be facing while putting it into the hands of two families that are only interested in their own wealth as neither really wants to save the world, just their own dynasties. The use of well-known pictures propels the plot (these are all listed at the start of the book) and line drawings of fragments of them (which represent some of Fogg’s drawings) are scattered throughout. While some of the plot elements are familiar, there is enough that is unique to make this an enjoyable romp.

Pauline Morgan

May 2022

(pub: Jo Fletcher Books, 2022. 360 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-52942-303-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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