Over the past decade, Matthew de Abaitua has slowly, and with nearly not enough fanfare, assembled one of the most mind-bendingly pleasurable explorations of AI, the singularity, and the future of humanity to ever span a trilogy of sci-fi novels.
True enough, his 2007 debut The Red Men—a drug-laced, psychedelic story about a man who works in the marketing department for a company that makes simulated copies of humans intended to help business executives deal with office drudgery—was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, but it was a long eight years between that book and the multi-layered reality twister If Then, which explores a strange retro-futuristic landscape in which residents of a small English town surviving in the wake of an economic collapse are forced to live by the strictures of an inscrutable program known as the Process (which is strangely obsessed with recreating the events of a battle in a war that ended a century earlier). Last year’s The Destructives capped off the loosely linked trilogy, and is similarly hard to capture in a single sentence (our review does the job, and calls it “mind-boggling” to boot).
Complicating matters is the fact The Red Men was only available in the U.S. through a small press publisher—but no more. Soon, you’ll have a chance to discover (or rediscover—because rereading these books is essential) the entire trilogy in a slick, uniform package: in November, Angry Robot Books, publisher of If Then and The Destructives, is bringing back The Red Men in a new paperback edition featuring eye-catching cover art by Raid71, matching their excellent work on the other books in the series.
Check it out after the official summary, and keep scrolling to witness the short film “Dr Easy,” based on the book.
Once, Nelson was a radical journalist, but now he works for Monad, who make the Dr Easys, the androids which police London’s streets. They also make the Red Men – entirely virtual corporate workers – and they’re looking to expand the programme.
Nelson is put in charge of Redtown: a virtual city, inhabited by copies of real people, where humanity can be studied in perfect simulation. But the project’s goals are increasingly authoritarian and potentially catastrophic. As the boundaries between Redtown and the real world break down and revolution against the Red Men is imminent, Nelson is forced to choose between community and the corporation.
Here’s a look at the whole trilogy together:
Here’s “Dr. Easy,” 10 minutes well-spent: