The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind, but a good detective is never obsolete.
London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel.
And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.
Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.
A chip controlled by TIM.
Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.
Auxiliary is gripping, unpredictable, and bleakly atmospheric—ideal for fans of cyberpunk classics like the Blade Runner movies, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the Netflix original series Black Mirror.
Auxiliary: London 2039 was such an exciting book in that it’s a dark combination of the detective noir, cyberpunk, and sci-fi genres. Our main character, Carl Dremmler, is the kind of detective you’d find in a 1940s noir story: he drinks too much, has a painful past, is a bit crass, and picks up strangers for sex (though he often has sex with his personal humanoid robot). I thought the author did a fantastic job of meshing the different genres, and they all worked seamlessly in this story.
The setting for this dystopian thriller is more than a bit disconcerting and grim, taking place in the near future where machines pretty much run the world. Robots have replaced most jobs, humanity has stopped growing, striving, and evolving, and people are continuously monitored and controlled by the primary operating system. “Real Life” as we know it has nearly become obsolete.
We get a taste of this in the opening scene where Detective Dremmler is called to the flat of a young man who was so engrossed in the virtual reality “AltWord” that he neglected to eat or drink, and thus died at his computer. It’s at this point where we’re introduced to the main operating system, TIM, which stands for “The Imagination Machine.” TIM is a single interface that controls every aspect of people’s lives, from turning on the lights, ordering food, shopping, playing music, transportation, surgery, etc. Basically, this system holds absolute power, with everyone’s lives being tightly controlled by the AI.
The story then becomes especially interesting when Detective Dremmler is called to the scene of a grisly crime. A young man has allegedly murdered his girlfriend by crushing her skull with his cybernetically-controlled prosthetic arm. It appears to be an open and shut case of murder. However, the distraught man protests that the arm, whose chip is controlled by TIM, acted on its own accord and that the man couldn’t stop it — that he had neither intention nor reason to kill his girlfriend. Initially, Dremmler is certain that the man is lying because what he’s claiming is impossible. TIM is unhackable; everybody knows that. Right?
But as Dremmler and his partner begin investigating deeper, he soon begins to suspect that there’s a lot more going on here than what he first thought and the case then morphs into something else entirely. In fact, the “unhackable” TIM may not be as safe as everyone thinks. Further digging causes him to suspect that there’s an even larger conspiracy at the bottom of it all.
Of course, there are those who want him to stop digging, especially those higher up in the police hierarchy and certain mega-IT corporations. It also becomes clear that some will do whatever it takes to ensure that he stops digging because if it’s proven that TIM was indeed hacked, that knowledge could destroy the public’s trust in the AI and throw society into panic and upheaval. Dremmler and his partner then begin working under the radar, and the more they uncover, the more deadly the situation becomes.
The clever and imaginative plot was utterly compelling and had me madly turning the pages to discover what was really going on here. I thought the story was fascinating though certainly dark, creepy, and profoundly unsettling. This book captivated me from beginning to end as the twists started to pile up. I thought this was a blood-chilling roller-coaster ride of a novel that’s both provocative and shocking. Compelling, dark, and intense, this story of technology gone wrong kept me guessing until the end and took me places I very much didn’t expect.
Speaking of the ending, it’s worth mentioning that the book ends rather abruptly mid-scene, which is the type of conclusion one often finds with short horror stories. I’m not a fan of these types of endings, so I knocked off a star for that as it did leave me feeling a little unsatisfied. But apart from that, I thought this gripping story was phenomenal and the world-building exceptional. I’d definitely read more by this author.
A huge thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.