Someone is playing computer games with mankind.
‘The medium is the message.’
Here are some thoughts about my latest novel Ersatz World.
As defined by the OED:
‘(Of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else.’
Late 19th century from German, literally, ‘replacement.’
This is a novel about a man who thinks he is being followed, who is abducted four times by the same two men in different styles and periods of dress because they think he has some information they need. Each abduction is told in a different genre. While the novel has a Noir feel, it may be satire, it may be a thriller, it may be sci fi, or something hybrid, something else. It resists genre and portrays a world of simulations. The protagonist, a publisher, hates the digital age of publishing and believes we are being turned into code. His wife is suffering from body dysmorphia and collecting prosthetic limbs. The protagonist thinks his business partner is working with androids. His bestselling author has disappeared. As he searches for the author the police arrest him. They think the author’s manuscript is a blueprint for a terrorist attack on London.
LIVING IN THE REPLACED WORLD
This is what he tries to do as he is accused of planning a crime, hiring two men to abduct him, plotting an incendiary attack, and having an affair with a gangster’s moll. The word Ruby occurs throughout. It may be a clue in a paranoid puzzle. It may be the name of his mistress, married to a dangerous man. The world he knew is gone, he struggles to find it.
That is what he sees, the publisher afraid of code. He seeks the real body, the body politic beyond the code. There are different segments of reality going on in the novel, different states of truth that the protagonist has to work his way through. As he does he begins to understand his wife’s obsessive need for disembodiment, for a disembodied state of being.
He escapes his captors and then the police arrest him for murder and ask him about the code word Ruby. It may be that his wife’s emails have triggered a false positive. It is all unreal now, simulated world of spies, the age of surveillance, of voyeurism. Then there is a terrorist attack on London.
Simulation, parody, definitions of style and approaches to a reality that cannot be defined, cannot be caught in a net, there is no genre in the novel. This is hybrid Art. It seems that the protagonist may be right after all, he may be under surveillance, but then he thinks we all are. In this passage at the beginning of the novel, as he gets up and reads the newspaper he ponders on the real:
‘He scanned the article, seeing ruins crumble, entire edifices of the world he once felt was secure becoming powder, like the dust that settled each night on his marital bed. He felt historicised, as if a resident zeitgeist were fracturing his being, splintering his identity like a piece of bone. The familiar taste of nausea flooded his mouth as he sipped his coffee, and he wondered if he lived in a state of permanent apprehension, as if some part of him knew what was about to occur. And as he stared at his reflection in the kitchen window he wondered what it was he feared, what denouement in his waning drama would be the act that shook him to his core, feeling as though some watchful conspiracy were about to embroil him in its agenda. The world was becoming unfathomable to him.
… The drive to work in Kensington was the same as it had been for weeks. Buildings and people passed by his white Volvo S80 as if on a reel of film that replayed itself over and over on a daily basis and from time to time Samuel wondered if any of it was real, as if London itself had been caught in some mirror that merely fed simulations of the city’s life to its inhabitants.’
Coming soon from NUMBER THIRTEEN PRESS:
Ersatz World by Richard Godwin.