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The Destructives Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2016
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“It’s a work that doesn’t so much subvert expectations as shatter them utterly. It’s dense, but it also moves; it’s both a breakneck thriller and one of the year’s most thoughtful works of science fiction.”
– B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
“Matthew De Abaitua has the knack of delivering the most complex of concepts and diabolical leaps of imagination in a way that first entices then completely draws the reader in. A thrilling book.”
– Strange Alliances
“A marvellously written book, whose invention and surprises gain momentum until its boggler of an ending.”
– SFX Magazine
“The story is set against a detailed background that blends creative imagination with intelligent prediction to arrive at a credible future. From designer drugs to shopping malls that double as asylums, from obsessive data tracking to floating offshore habitats for the wealthy, the future depicted here is a credible offshoot of current trends.”
– Tzer Island
“A distinctive and grand work of the imagination. You don’t need a VR headset to appreciate this work of art, just eyes and a brain.”
– The Generalist
“The Destructives is as successful as its predecessor and together they make one of the most intriguing and disturbing near-future speculations published for some years.”
– Strange Horizons
“J. G. Ballard does John Varley, or David Marusek by way of M. John Harrison, with frostings of Philip K. Dick and Peter Watts… De Abaitua’s novel gives us a portrait of an utterly foreign yet believable future.”
– Asimov’s Science Fiction (print)
“The Destructives is well written and of superior construction, and the ideas De Abaitua grapples with in this novel – the nature of artificial intelligence, the endgame of global capitalism, the eternal mismatch between material prosperity and emotional fulfilment – are compelling and attention-worthy. That De Abaitua navigates the often abstruse territory of his particular science fiction without once sacrificing the predominantly literary values of formal coherence or linguistic suppleness is yet more testament to his skill, not just as a writer but as a thinker.”
– Nina Allan, for The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy
About the Author
Matthew De Abaitua's novel The Red Men was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award and adapted into a short film ‘Dr Easy’ by Shynola and produced by Film4/Warp Films. His science fiction novels IF THEN (Angry Robot, September 2015) and The Destructives (Angry Robot, 2016) complete the loose trilogy begun with The Red Men. His second book was a memoir and history, The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars. The Economist described it as one of the books of the year. He lectures on creative writing and science fiction at the University of Essex and lives in Hackney.
Author hometown: London, UK
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The future imagined here isn't one that is extremely similar to current society with a small twist. The emergence of AI as an emergent behavior of the internet causes widespread changes, to a point where the new world is wildly dissimilar to the old one, though still reminiscent of current day life. There's definitely parodies of current day life splattered here and there, with certain elements evolved further and studied like in a wildlife nature show. It definitely adds to the uniqueness and interesting nature of the story.
The plot itself is Asimov like. Without spoiling anything, there's definite parallels to many central themes in Asimov's works. The combination of a speculative environment with a space opera plot leads to a very interesting read.
I don't write for a living so I'll just throw out what I enjoyed: Skilled, strong, sensitive writing. Epic adventure. Hard science. Cultural anthropology, biology, psychology, and consciousness theory. Dishuman intelligence. Romance. Virtual worlds.
I love love thought-provoking page-turners. This is one fantastic read.
The story involves emergences, self-aware beings that emerged from computer technology. They consider themselves to be natural, rather than artificial, intelligences, although they debate whether they are a product of evolution or technology. Things were very bad for humans during a period called the Seizure that followed the emergences’ entry into human society. To avoid further difficulties, humans and emergences agreed not to collaborate. The emergences took up residence in colonies that closely orbit the sun. The emergence known as Dr Easy, however, has undertaken a research mission on Earth. His research requires him to make a recording of Theodore Drown’s life, the better to understand -- and keep an eye on -- humanity.
Theodore specializes in pre-Seizure restoration. He is summoned to the dark side of the moon, working on a project that has recreated a home as it existed in 2020, shortly before the Seizure. There he studies a quantified family -- a family that recorded its daily environment in holographic detail, charting activities and health and moods (because really, you don’t know whether you’re happy or sad until your computer confirms your emotions). In 2020, people still considered themselves to be users of technology rather than the other way around.
Since nearly all pre-Seizure data has been erased, Theodore is excited to find a trove of data concerning the quantified family. The project is hidden underground for reasons that gradually become apparent to Theodore. It turns out to represent a vital moment in history.
The plot eventually has Theodore starting a business called the Destructives. The business brings him into contact with people who are pursuing goals that appear to be contrary to the interests of the emergences and, for that matter, most humans. Meanwhile, the Destructives undertakes its own project, one that again might be contrary to the wishes of the emergences. Eventually the story moves to one of Jupiter’s moons and its surprising inhabitants.
There is quite a bit of cultural commentary in The Destructives, the commentary coming from the perspective of observers who are studying culture after its destruction. One of my favorite thoughts refers to the ease with which people, without sensing the irony, use mass-produced products to express their individuality. The commentary alone makes the novel worth reading.
The story becomes needlessly murky and meandering after the action moves to Europa, although it continues to score imagination points. The ending, on the other hand, circles around in a surprising way to tie the novel together. While I liked the novel’s first half more than the second, the book as a whole is considerably more thought-provoking than typical Angry Robot fare.