cover image If Then

If Then

Matthew De Abaitua. Angry Robot (Random, dist.), $7.99 mass market (416p) ISBN 978-0-85766-466-2

De Abaitua builds on the promise he demonstrated in The Red Men in this intellectual science fiction novel, whose ambition is matched by its execution. Our world has been transformed by a cataclysmic event known as the Seizure, a disaster De Abaitua depicts from the perspective of the residents of the British town of Lewes. After humans "ceased to be a vital component of the economic system," society collapsed, and the British government sold off Lewes to an "Asian fund algorithm." Now, its inhabitants' lives are governed by a terrifying artificial intelligence known as the Process that employs sophisticated formulas to determine how resources should be allocated, using 120 metrics to calculate what is fair. Part of the Process's calculus is determining which citizens are to be exiled to enforce "socially positive behavior." Carrying out these sentences falls to James, the person transformed into the town bailiff. His discovery of a not-quite-human soldier, John Hector, leads him to realize that the Process is setting things in motion to recreate WWI. The author's thoughtful world-building is enhanced by a cast of relatable characters. Agent: Sarah Such, Sarah Such Literary (U.K.). (Sept.)