Villordsutch reviews Wolves by Simon Ings…
“Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.
It’s rather odd for me to read a science-fiction book that I, on the whole, wouldn’t consider to be actual science-fiction even though it deals in the coming end of civilisation, and the abuse of people’s perceptions of life via the implantation of AR (Artificial Reality) lenses in the eyes and other senses beyond that. You’d possibly be considering this to be very much a sci-fi nerd-out book and with that thought you’d be very much wrong.
To me this book rang more bells of Iain Banks’ Wasp Factory than it did with any classic SF novelists such as Clarke or Asimov or Hamilton. The thing to add here is I loved the absolute wickedness of the Wasp Factory and here too with Simon Ings novel I’m smiling and I shouldn’t be.
The narrator and protagonist of our story Conrad takes us through his life in the order that he sees fit to; it is apparent in the beginning of the novel that we are in the present where he (Conrad) is currently in the process of leaving his armless girlfriend – armless due to the fact Conrad couldn’t see the need in telling his (then fully limbed) girlfriend if there was any traffic coming due to the utter psychotic nature of the driver asking the passenger that question, “Is there anything coming?”. We move on to meet Michel, a fantasy writer who writes of the coming apocalypse and his girlfriend Hanna; Michel and Hanna live by the sea and are currently in the process of building a boat as to sale off around the world, leaving the crumbling civilisation behind. The book as mentioned above can be wicked and can also be amazingly sobering, as with the observations that follow at the party that Michel takes Conrad and Hanna too; it’s after the party to due to a near death experience that Conrad has sex with Hanna.
We fall backwards in between different moments of the story delving into Conrad’s childhood where he grew up within a hotel ran by his mother and father. We discover that his mother suffered greatly with mental health issues which sometimes came in the form of depression, where she would stay in her room for days not eating or on occasion her personality would taking her for weeks to a “Greenham Common style” women’s only protest outside an US airbase. Whilst Conrad’s father would look after injured ex-service men giving them assistance which includes sight, due to it being lost in some unnamed war. It’s in Conrad’s early teens that he has he first three sexual encounters both hetero and homosexual, two forced upon him (one as a show of caring affection, the other a blinded soldier’s case of mistaken identity) and the latter with a close friend. It’s also during his childhood his mother is murdered, dead in the boot of his dad’s car, and for the sake of his father’s sanity Conrad takes it upon himself to dispose of the body; this moment in the book is extremely (to quote the youth) a “WT Actual F!” moment as for the entire day he rather farcically struggles to dispose of his dead mothers body yet at the same time you feel so sad for the boy as here lies his mother, balled up in the boot with a plastic bag sellotaped over her head.
During Wolves I found myself laughing and smiling at things that to a more decent human being would be classed as “disgusting” and possibly “deplorable”. Though I know I shouldn’t be laughing Simon Ings has managed to drill into a dark vein of humour and throughout the tale when your dragged down to a horrible place he’ll nugget of a word or chunk of a line and smirk will spread across your face. Again however if it wasn’t for the sci-fi bits mentioned above I’d doubt this was sci-fi; I know that civilisation is supposed to be crumbling but how it was being described at the end it made me wonder was Conrad just there to help Michel with his mental health problem?
Simon Ings’ book is worthy of anybody’s shelf especially if your humour level is of a wicked variety.