Books like this place their protagonists in outlandish positions which deliberately stretch the bounds of credibility. They test the moral boundaries and mortal capabilities of the central characters; examine the core fundamental truths of human existence, and pass comment on real-life society, religious and political situations in passing. Convergence aims at all of these targets, and hits a fair few of them. Sharp-toothed satire is a writer’s greatest weapon, and it’s used here to excellent effect.
Convergence is the kind of speculative / futuristic fiction which has been horribly over-shadowed in recent years, shoved off the shelves by supernatural romance, urban fantasy and sword-n-sorcery questing epics. It’s very much a modern novel – not old-fashioned in the slightest – but it draws on the great traditions of sci-fi writing to examine the human condition in the most extreme circumstances.
However, I made a mistake in reading this book before the other two novels in Mike French’s Dandelion Trilogy. The blurb suggests that Convergence can be enjoyed as a stand-alone and, indeed, I was wrapped up in it for several days, propelled through the bite-size chapters at a fearsome pace by the relentless drive of the central narrative. It is a non-stop end of the world story, in which the fate of humanity and the whole planet rests on the shoulders of two star-crossed lovers, divided by strife indeed.
So the story really grabbed me, but where I struggled was with the supporting characters who presumably played other roles in the earlier books and whose stories are brought to a conclusion in this one. I probably spent the first third of Convergence in a slightly bewildered daze, enjoying what was going on without actually understand what was relevant to this book and what was mopping-up from previous episodes. It would certainly have benefitted from a ‘story so far’ prologue – or indeed, I should’ve read the first parts before the final part…
On the other hand, it was a refreshing change to be challenged by such an intricate and creative universe — and not be spoon-fed set-piece action-adventure. Sci-fi should stimulate the brain, not send it to sleep! Convergence definitely kept my entire attention throughout.
Even so, I found it tricky to engage with many of the characters, even the central pair upon whom the story depends. Without their back story I struggled to understand their motivations and reactions, and had the continual feeling that I’d missed a point.
Despite that, I found Convergence to be eminently readable and was thoroughly entertained by the myriad tangle of interwoven sub-plots. The action hops between a dozen or so different scenarios, which range from the depressing to the droll, underpinned by a distinctly biblical theme. The pope plays a prominent part – he’s based in London these days, having bought the palace of Westminster from the UK government. Oh, and we sold the white cliffs of Dover to the French. The Russians have abandoned earth already and gone off into space (or not…), while the Americans have a habit of recreating past presidents in the form of clone copies of Reagan and JFK. It’s kinda hard to tell the bad guys from the good guys. And they switch sides anyway. Or perhaps our perception of ‘sides’ changes as the novel progresses. Anyone could be a clone of their past self or a convergence clone, a distillation of their most treasured moments, or an AI pretending to be a clone. Or god. The action takes place all over the globe, in low earth orbit amid the wreckage of old satellites, and in an alternate reality which might be imagined or which could actually be the end of everything. Keep up at the back there.
Every one of the snappy chapters is packed with droll observations. Pete – the hero, if you want one – spends much of the novel being shipped around for interrogation and torture and his time spent battling the customer service drones of the ‘interrogation service’ is cripplingly funny. Ditto the interaction with the over-aggressive checkout assistant whose role it is in life to make the shopper feel inadequate at packing. And there’s a telling jab at soft-drinks marketeers, with their attempts to personalise their products. Juicy observations on everyday life, scattered throughout. And I adored the Great Stink: an appalling and disgustingly entertaining prospect for a future prison system.
Convergence has some considerably more serious points to make, too, about life, love, loyalty and redemption, but I’ll let you discover them for yourself. I would however start with The Ascent of Isaac Steward to understand more fully what the author is saying…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Convergence by Mike French is instantly available at Amazon.co.uk
However, we recommend you start reading with the Ascent of Isaac Steward, also available at Amazon.
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