cover image Hellsans


Ever Dundas. Angry Robot, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-915202-21-5

Dundas’s wildly imaginative debut tackles big ideas of identity, narrative, surveillance, and the societal marginalization of queer and disabled people, while also working as a dark, emotionally centered thriller full of both unsettling absurdity and psychological resonance. In a technodystopian, near-future U.K., the government communicates and controls via HellSans, a typeface that induces bliss in the majority of the population while the minority who are physically allergic to the font are persecuted and ghettoized. Per Dundas’s author’s note, the first two sections are readable in either order at the reader’s discretion. The first follows Dr. Icho Smith, the creator of a treatment for Hellsans allergies who hopes to get it directly into the hands of sufferers rather than allowing the government to control the cure, the other Jane Ward, creator of the Inex, a ubiquitous sentient humanoid personal assistant. Jane’s sudden development of HellSans allergy makes her officially persona non grata and leads, in the third part, to the two women coming together in a revolution-fueled relationship, pursued by both the government and the radical Seraphs, who want to dismantle the Hellsans-centered society rather than merely help the ill manage their symptoms. Clever metatextual elements and dubious narrators enhance the ride. The harrowing worldbuilding and strong message make this stand out. Agent: Jenny Brown, Jenny Brown Assoc. (Oct.)