Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Spark Spark
by John Twelve Hawks

Supplied for review by Random HouseNew Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

I’d never heard of Cotard's syndrome, but Wikipedia has enough of an entry to convince me that it is a very real although rare mental condition, in which a person actually does believe that they are dead. Jacob Underwood has thought of himself as deceased, to be no more than a spark within a shell, ever since a near fatal motorcycle accident. He feels nothing, and that makes him a perfect assassin in a world which sees everything. Set in a very believable dystopian near future, Spark is a psychological thriller with a distinctively Orwellian edge. Big Brother – or rather the EYE system – really is watching you, just one step into the future; having been created in a response to an atrocity called the "Day of Rage" which is eerily reminiscent of the massacre of school children that just occurred in Pakistan.

This really is a remarkable book. It drew me in, and grabbed me, and demanded that I keep reading. Jacob, for all his amorality, is a strangely sympathetic protagonist, especially as he begins to re-discover himself and the possibility of feeling… which begins when he finds himself reluctant to follow orders to kill a child, for no other reason than that the child has the wrong parents. The plot presses relentlessly onwards to its thrilling (and somewhat open-ended) conclusion. But there’s more to it than that, because we are compelled to question the nature of morality, even of our own personal reality. And like the best science fiction this book presents the reader with issues to think about ahead of their time – especially regarding the role of humanoid robots in the workplace, and the consequences of total surveillance. I do recommend this book… there is a fair amount of violence, none of it gratuitous; and an absence of profanity (often associated with emotional outbursts, and Jacob doesn’t do emotions). More importantly, this a book that will both entertain you and make you think.

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