The Last Reef
Author: Gareth L Powell
Publisher: Anarchy Books
Page count/Size: 355KB/182 pp
Release date: 1st April 2012
Reviewer: Ken Norman
I have a confession to make: I think I may have turned into something of a luddite. Despite (or possibly because of) working in I.T., I’ve spent the last decade eschewing the latest phones and whatnot for a more old-fashioned experience. As a result, this is the first time I have read a book in any format other than physical paper. I was expecting it to be a somehow disjointed experience, devoid of the comfort and tactile feedback that a weighty tome produces. The shameful act of reading the book on a tablet was forced upon me and filled me full of foreboding… but in the end I kind of enjoyed it.
The Last Reef is a collection of stories, most of which are centred around a theme of technology nightmares. When and how a computer might be capable of going sentient (and what it would do if it did) is a premise of some of the stories here, but not in the way you might think. These tales are more involved with what happens to the unfortunate humans that get in the midst of the technological dystopia. This allows the author to explore the consequences of bad tech without getting too bogged down in the mechanics of how this might happen and without getting involved in explaining the science in too much detail. There are a few stand-out stories in here, ones that really made me forget the physical format of the book and live in the narrative. Some of the stories didn’t quite seem to inhabit the same universe as the rest of the book and felt like extras; they aren’t bad in any way, but I really wanted the entire collection to be linked together.
This book is worth reading for the one page horror story “The Long Walk Aft” alone and for the fun in stitching the threads of the related stories together as the collection becomes something whole. The prospect of a computer near me becoming self-aware and disappearing up its own parallel port is something I’m waiting for with baited breath. Any minute now…