First published in November of 2015, British author Mike French and British artist Karl Brown came together to create the book ‘An Android Awakes’ – a imaginatively-crafted cross between a written novel and the artwork of a graphic novel.

DLS Synopsis:
Following the rejection of his novel ‘The Eating Of Citizen Kane’ (because it was one word over the one-thousand-word-limit), Author Android PD121928 now had just fourteen attempts left to get a story accepted.  The Android Publishing Program was quite clear about the process.  If an android writer fails to obtain a publishing contract after forty-two attempts then they will be deactivated.  Simple as that.  And with each rejection letter that Author Android PD121928 received, he was getting closer and closer to deactivation.

It is a world of artificial intelligence where androids were now the ones in control.  In order to replicate the life of a writer, the authorities had taken away Author Android PD121928’s wife, Samantha, and replaced her with an allowance for prostitutes.  Since then the Android Writer had lived a solitary life; submitting story after story to the Android Publishing Program in the hope that one of his characters held the key to being published.

But with each story that he submitted, an increasingly inane rejection letter soon followed.  However he had no choice but to continue writing his increasingly imaginative stories.  Tales of strange motionless spacecraft, androids with elaborate obsessions, mankind’s drastic measures to free-up real estate by shifting the seas into the sky, along with one man’s torment at having an Angel Fish swimming within his eye…to name but a few.

And now with only fourteen submission attempts remaining, time was quickly running out for Android PD121928…

DLS Review:
The way in which author Mike French has constructed the written side to his futuristic tale is really quite clever.  In essence, the book is pretty much a collection of imaginatively connected short stories which are tied together using an all-encompassing plot involving an android who is writing and submitting these wacky stories.  In a similar vein to the incredibly imaginative off-the-wall oddness of Tim Dry’s ‘Ricochet’ (2015), the stories stretch the realms of our universe, whereby absolutely nothing can be taken for granted and everything is open to complete reworking and manipulation by the author.

There’s little to no narrative between the majority of the submissions; with the stories themselves quite cunningly painting a more insightful picture of the strange android-dominated future that we are glimpsing.  Indeed, you’re never quite sure which aspects from the stories are mere creations from the Android Writer’s imagination and which reflect the reality of this artificially-geared dystopian future.

One of the main strengths within the book is undoubtedly with how each of the stories bleeds into each other.  They’re all individual, standalone stories.  However they display continuous links, recurring themes and characters.  They interweave and seemingly interact with each other.  Furthermore, the Android Writer’s life (i.e. outside of the short stories) can be seen inspiring and infiltrating into the tales themselves.  As such, French cleverly bridges the void between fiction and a supposed reality which they have been created within – ingeniously adding multiple layers and perplexing depths to the whole concept of the book.

The stories are laced with humor and inventive speculations at our future selves (admittedly in a purposefully distorted and exaggerated way). However, there’s some thoughtful probing underneath it all.  Some quite poignant ponderings and suggestive speculations are buried within the flow of the collective stories.  And plucking these dangling threads out from this veritable sea of strange and surreal science-fiction can feel strangely rewarding.

As already mentioned, one of the most unique aspects about the book is its crossover between a standard written novel and that of a graphic novel.  Every few pages or so, the reader is treated to graphic novel style artwork by artist Karl Brown, illustrating the stories and adding a visual element to the whole reading experience.  The artwork itself is bold and wonderfully stylized, done in black pen and ink utilizing complex and increasingly intricate line work.

Although the artwork adds another level to the book and enhances the whole reading experience – for this reviewer at least - the illustrations looked a tad too amateurish, too unfinished and in desperate need of some final tweaking.  In places the original pencil sketching can be see poking out from the sides of the overlaying ink work.  Elsewhere, where large patches of black ink are incorporated within the pictures, the pen stokes supposedly blocking out these areas can clearly be seen, instantly flattening the image and taking away from the overall impact of piece.  Perspective is just that little bit off, and the angles of certain aspects sometimes just don’t work.

Nevertheless there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had out of this strangely compelling book.  The sheer imagination and originality on show is enough to ensnare even the most unforgiving of readers.  And what’s partially nice to see is that the book wears it influences proudly on its sleeve.  Think ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) meets ‘2000 A.D.’ (1977 – present) with a respectful nod or two towards ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ (1979).  Mix in some Tim Dry-esque off-the-wall strangeness with some ‘Abarat’ (2002)-era Clive Barker – and you’re pretty much there.

For sheer originality alone the book should be applauded.  It’s got so much crammed in there.  So many layers and carefully crafted depths.  And from all of this comes one damn entertaining and utterly compelling read.

The book runs for a total of 202 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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