Tuesday 28 March 2017

Sci-Fi: Edge Of Heaven by RB Kelly

Liberties Press, €13.99

Edge of Heaven by RB Kelly
Edge of Heaven by RB Kelly

Eilis O'Hanlon

There's a plague coming, and it promises to be a "perfect storm of biological genocide". That's bad news for the citizens of Creo, a city of some 100 million people in France in the not-too-distant future, which already suffers from being shut off from all sunlight.

Among that multitude of souls is Danae Grant, a so-called "a-naut", or "semi-autonomous artificial" lifeform who may have the cure. But will anyone listen to someone who isn't even human?

Belfast author RB Kelly's debut novel took her more than 20 years to complete - she wrote the first draft when she was only 15 and it's been through multiple versions since - and it touches on many familiar science fiction themes.

What, if anything, is the difference between natural and artificial intelligence? What does the future hold for mankind on a planet whose precious resources they've poisoned and exploited?

There's nothing here that hasn't been explored before, but it is undoubtedly refreshing to see a new Irish writer plunging right in to the big questions. Homegrown fiction tends to the naturalistic and realistic rather than the fantastical. Kelly is part of a growing generation of younger Irish writers, such as Kevin Barry of City Of Bohane fame, who are daring to try something radically different.

Unfortunately, it's also rather a confusing book, with many passages so densely written that reading becomes a test of endurance. A ruthless editor might have been able to pare back the excesses and indulgences and find the shiny nugget of story at the novel's heart.

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