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The Compelled by Adam Roberts and François Schuiten (ebook review).

September 4, 2020 | By | Reply More

‘The Compelled’ is a gorgeous-looking e-book written by Adam Roberts with wonderfully atmospheric illustrations by François Schuiten that have an almost retro-Victorian look to them. The book is set in modern times, but I kept finding myself viewing it through steampunk goggles as I immersed myself in the world of the Compelled.

This first book in what I assume is a series or trilogy introduces us to the phenomenon of compulsion wherein, for reasons unknown, a sizeable minority of the Earth’s population feel the urge to collect seemingly random objects and bring them together to build huge sculptures. The reason for this compulsion is the subject of numerous theories which are repeated and expanded by the characters themselves and the news media as the structures start to take on potentially more sinister forms. The book follows several of the Compelled as they follow the missions implanted into their hearts and minds to collect objects of great variety and make their way to wherever those objects need to be.

The phenomenon has had massive cultural, political and social implications and those under compulsion face legal sanctions, hostility and even violence as they attempt to carry out their missions. It’s an intriguing concept and Adam Roberts has given much thought to the consequences and ramifications on both individuals and society in general. Some of those consequences are reminiscent of the upheavals caused by Covid-19: financial uncertainty, mass job loss and political wavering over the best way to handle the crisis.

The fabulous illustrations of various partly constructed edifices are matched by the wonderfully colourful language in Adam Roberts’ trademark style. He plays with homonyms and synonyms, pronunciation and the misheard words of conversations to add a flowing, rhythmic pace to the plot. The book has a steady and progressive pace that builds up momentum and tension as the reason and functioning of the huge sculptures plays on the characters’ minds.

There are an interesting selection of people involved: a stand-up comedian, a senator, a policeman and a social worker who specialises in helping the Compelled and feels an odd connection to their compulsion. This gives us a wide and varied look at the global phenomenon and how it affects people in all walks of life.

It’s an interesting variation on some of the tropes that crop up regularly in Science Fiction. There’s often mysterious artefacts or sculptures left behind by another race (‘2001’, ‘Stargate’); sometimes there are instructions received on how to build some astounding machine (‘This Island Earth’, ‘Contact’). Here there’s a blurry blend of possibly astonishing machine and possibly alien influences that tantalise with intrigue.

I haven’t seen any information about a sequel yet, but I’m fascinated to see what happens next.

Gareth D Jones

September 2020

(pub: NeoText, 2020. 166 page ebook. file size: 13016kB. Price: £ 2.49 (UK). ASIN: B08D8QX21N)

check out website: https://neotextcorp.com/

Category: Books, Scifi

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