by Warren Ellis
FSG Originals | 2016
Paperback: 148 pages
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Review Source: ARC e-galley
ARC ebook from edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.
“ Any time you pick up something by Warren Ellis, you know it’s going to be weird and wild and awesome. The same is true for his new novel, Normal, a techno-thriller about two groups of strategists taking on the challenge of the impending end of civilization.” Quoted from Book Riot Community, Goodreads, Nov 16, 2016)
This was my first foray into Dystopian Science Fiction. I’m trying to broaden my reading horizon and dipping into an area that I felt uncomfortable reading and definitely felt awkward reviewing due to my superior lack of imagination.
I’m going to admit that I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the story until I popped into Goodreads and read a few reviews from fans of Warren Ellis. I saw the movie, Red, roughly based on Ellis’ short work with the same name. I never read the book, Red, but I sure loved the movie and was inspired to read Normal when I came across the title in Netgalley.
Thus, sci-fi enlightened, I started the book over again and decided that I enjoyed it…but like goat cheese…once was enough.
“Hand over the entire internet now and nobody gets hurt,” she said, aiming the toothbrush at the nurse like an evil magic wand.” Thus, speaks a patient at a secret facility located amid the coastal wilds of Oregon known as Normal Head.
The world is rapidly moving toward annihilation. Most of mankind slogs along totally uninterested in anything beyond self-starting cars, smart phones or the Internet. The world has become totally reliant on technology. But for those professionals whose careers force them to deal with the strain of facing that mankind is causing their own demise becomes too much and they lose their minds. The purpose of the site is to remove these overwrought professionals from the burdens of technology and placing them in a setting where they can be treated without interference from the outside world, and when recovering from their depression and mental strain, moved into an outer area known as Staging. Those in Staging are in line to return to society after a period of acclimation.
Just like our currently divided political climate, the professionals housed in Normal Head are divided into two camps of thought- foresight strategists (futurists) and strategic forecasters.
“Professional demarcation, “[Lela] said. “Foresight strategists [futurists] on this side. Nonprofits, charitable institutions, universities, design companies, the civil stuff. On the other side? Strategic forecasters. Global security groups, corporate think tanks, spook stuff.”
Adam Dearden, the newest patient, a futurist, arrives at Normal Head, afflicted with a bad case of “abyss gaze”. Adam had been involved with a worldwide surveillance system whose purpose to was to take the pulse of the world thereby avoiding financial catastrophe before the cataclysm arrives.
Everything is going along smoothly much like One Flew Over The Cockoo’s Nest until one morning, a patient, Mr. Mansfield, goes missing from inside his locked room. His disappearance is made even more alarming as his bed is filled with writhing black bugs.
The game is on as the building and grounds go on lockdown in the search for Mr. Mansfield. The social dynamics of Normal Head undergoes an unforeseen upheaval and the conclusion presents thoughts for our own future.
Once educated to unclear dystopian and non-standard terminology I enjoyed the book. My advice for other sci-fi novitiates, read reviews of any book you are planning to read. Familiarize yourself with the personalities and the synopsis as presented by the publisher and author.
I am rating it ★★★ as I am in no position to compare this dystopian world to the chaos now enveloping our own world. I think it is safe to say that as things stand in reality, I am fast approaching “abyss gaze”.