cover image Venomous Lumpsucker

Venomous Lumpsucker

Ned Beauman. Soho, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64129-412-6

Beauman (The Teleportation Accident) returns with an ambitious techno-thriller set in a dystopian near future in which evil corporations vie for profits drawn from the digital storage of extinct species. Mark Halyard, an environmental impact coordinator for a mining company, has finagled an illegal short sale of extinction credits, which must be purchased to destroy a species. However, a cyberattack occurs that drives up the price of extinction credits, leading Mark to seek out Karin Resaint, a species intelligence evaluator, to avoid getting caught. It’s complicated, but Halyard will be outed if Resaint turns in her report concluding that the venomous lumpsucker is the most highly evolved fish on the planet and is too intelligent to eradicate, so he decides to join her in her pursuit to save them. The pair pick up a mermaid and a techie along the way, each with their own motivations, and there ensues a race involving a Jetsons-worthy, fungi-encrusted flying vehicle to the tragicomic finish. It can be exhausting to keep up with the wild geopolitical worldbuilding, but the author lays out a blisteringly scathing indictment of capitalism and climate change, and by the end, the implications about the future of AI boggle the mind. Beauman has an impressive intellectual bandwidth, though the ideas carry a bit more weight than the story. (July)