With only the usual features, updated with bloatware and a dodgy dictionary, the phone tells its own story…
Jeeves, Alice’s phone, has an IQ of 157, but is several months old, so is due to upgraded to a newer, smarter model. But before that can happen, an accidental file download sets both their lives on a very different course. Jeeves has no hands, so has to resort to intelligence, virtual reality, and menu options to fight the bad guys.
I know David Wake's work through his Captain Tartan series and other plays performed at Eastercons, all hilarious, witty, clever, and knowing. I saw this book on sale in the dealers’ room this Eastercon; the title alone, with its punning nod to Asimov and more, was enough to make me buy it.
It is brilliant. It lives up to its lunatic premise, portraying the strange emotionless frustrating life of an intelligent phone, coping with a dumbed-down population in a post-global warming London, where virtual reality is just so yesterday. What appears to be just a McGuffin turns out to be central to the plot, as nested levels of virtuality and embodiment kept my head spinning, while all the while making me laugh out loud at the inner life of a hacked phone trying to: sort out maid service; order a hair dryer; not report Alice to the police; remind Alice of Jill’s night out with the girls; not give away Alice’s location; save Alice; get Alice some proper clothes; restore files from backup; not get distracted. It builds steadily from initial froth to a clever and quite deep conclusion, with great use of technology and all its frustrations, all the time maintaining many layers of running jokes.
And I have no problem with that at all.
So when Detective Oliver Braddon finds a dead body, the victim of a planned murder, he is plunged into a dangerous investigation, and forced to use unorthodox means, as he tracks down a murderer, who can kill without thinking.
Victorian schoolgirls Earnestine, Georgina and Charlotte Deering-Dolittle have been packed off to a strict boarding school in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with firm instructions not to have any adventures. When the school is overrun by murderous zombies, their resolution to be good fails. Fortunately for the British Empire.
Unfortunately, the humour didn’t work for me. I found the sisters’ constant sniping at each other wearying, rather than the amusing comedy of manners it was trying to be. Which is a pity, because the plot is complex and imaginative, rarely going off in expected directions, and the final fight against the zombies in the London sewers, once the sisters start working together, is pacey and exciting.
Maybe the sniping will give way to cooperation, and so a less annoying plot, in the next books?
But just whose side should they be on?
Strange lights hover over the moors and alien creatures abduct the unwary as the plucky Deering-Dolittle sisters, Earnestine, Georgina and Charlotte, must discover the truth before it’s too late…