The Cambridge Geek

Perfidious Albion - Sam Byers

Given that I picked this book up entirely because of its title, I must congratulate whoever leaped on the general feeling of the nation and decided that this would be something frequently googled. Whoever thought Mark Francois would be good for PR?

Not all Brexit here however, as while the book is set a little into a future where it's already happened, this is more of a satirical exploration of the implications of Big Tech and corporate power, as they slither their way further into our lives.

Trina works for Green, a "disruptor" company which makes its money by running a horde of micro-taskers (MTs). These people work in their homes, completing giant projects that have been broken down into the smallest possible package, to improve both ease of task and an utterly complete level of secrecy. No surprise then that the massive projects, centred around the local estate of Edmundsbury, aren't entirely noble.

Simultaneously, Hugo, local activist and budding political careerist for the England Always party is trying to get the last few residents of the estate out of their homes in order to allow a developer to begin the gentrification process. And finally Jess is dealing with the increasingly common problem of maintaining boundaries between public and private life, as she finds herself driven to create social change via dozens of alter egos.

Add onto all of that the rise of anti-privacy protesters, and the phrase "powder keg" seems most appropriate.

This is about as topical as it is possible to get without actually being the news. We've got Daily Mail columnist stand-ins, Brexit Party-themed thugs, the gig economy, and worryingly shiny-suited corporate interests pushing all the different levers and seeing which way people move. It also manages a chilling look into the head of someone slowly adjusting their politics to match the issues of the day, cutting a bit close to the bone in today's world of data-driven population manipulation.

You might fear it would be dry, given the subject matter and how much it digs into them, but actually the action clips along, and I found myself reading into the night more than once. It's also unexpectedly entertaining, eliciting no small number of chuckles.

One I'll heartily recommend, even if I still think the title sounds like a particularly sneaky football team.

Score 5

Tagged: Book Science fiction Techno-thriller Novel Print