Review: SP4RX

sp4rxHaving read How to Survive in the North, I’ve got a 100% success rate with graphic novels – read one, loved one. Wren McDonald’s SP4RX, a cyber punk novel set in a dystopian future, maintains my winning streak – read two, loved two. It’s a riveting, thriller of a read – and one to make you think.

SP4RX, a not-to-be-messed-with computer hacker, becomes involved in a do-or-die struggle with Structus Industries who are using technology to control the impoverished people on the ‘lower levels’, while the ‘upper levels’ flourish and live a life of indulgence. Desperate and alone, his only hope is a mysterious band of insurgents who plan to bring the system crashing down around them – but can they be trusted?

This is a worthy companion (or more likely a worthy introduction) to 1984 or Brave New World, classic stories of a class system gone horribly wrong (it also reminded me of a recent film – High Rise – based on a novel by JG Ballard). It serves as a warning against inequality and the relentless corporate mantra which means ‘efficiency’ is used as a justification for any number of evils. SP4RX also serves as a warning about technology and how, in the wrong hands, it brings control rather than freedom. Continue reading

Review: How to Survive in the North

HowToSurviveInTheNorth_coverLet me start with a confession.  Despite my claims to bookishness, before How to Survive in the North, I had never read a graphic novel.  It’s a whole world I know little or nothing about. So I have no real barometer to measure the book against. I know not whether it is better or worse than other books of its kind, whether it breaks new ground or churns over familiar turf.

I feel out of my depth – it’s like discovering new music, like listening to jazz for the first time. All I do know is that I read it, mesmerised, in one sitting.

The book weaves together three stories, two of them historical and based on truth, the third is contemporary and entirely fictional. The true stories are each about expeditions. They tell us much about survival, and about that strange human spirit that make us go to places that may kill us. Continue reading