Thursday 2 September 2021

Book Review: Under the Blue by Oana Aristide

I came across this book when I caught a few minutes of an interview with the author at this years Edinburgh Book Fest . She had started this dystopian novel before the COVID pandemic and it was published near the start of it.

It consistes of two threads, which seem quite disconnected as one begins to read the novel even though you know they must be, and as you read you think or might assume you understand how.

One concerns an artist, living in London, who immersed in his own work doesn't register what is happening to the rest of the world as it succumbs to a fatal plague. Harry, his neighbour Ash and her sister Jessie end up as the apparent survivors and start to head out across Europe into Africa to try to escape the impending nuclear meltdown as they run out of emergency power to maintain their cooling systems. En route they pick up a car, an old, well maintained indulgence Mercedes, they nickname Lioness.

The other thread are past and present computerscript conversations over the years between Dr Lisa Dahlen and Talos XI , an AI and between Lisa and her coworker Paul who are Talos's constructors.

It is through the conversations and thoughts of the two threesomes that the two storylines unravel and finally merge. These are philosphical, about the value of Art, of AI and the idiosyncrasies of being human and hold the ethos of the book. I thought it was well constructed and an enjoyable, quick read.

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