Welcome to iReview!
Today on the blog, we’re taking a ride in the TARDIS to walk straight to the future!
I would like to thank Midas and Serpentine Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Jem Tugwell
Date of publication: 6 June 2019
Publisher: Serpentine Books
Number of pages: 339
DI Clive Lussac has forgotten how to do his job. Ten years of embedded technology – ‘iMe’ – has led to complete control and the eradication of crime. Then the impossible happens. A body is found, and the killer is untraceable. With new partner Zoe Jordan, Clive must re-sharpen his detective skills and find the killer without technology, before time runs out for the next victim…
I was born in 1990. I am often told my generation sits on the gap between the old age and the new age, aka, life without everyday technology versus the slow but unavoidable invasion of technology in our lives. I remember playing outdoors, I remember settling in front of the telly to watch my anime because I wouldn’t be able to have it on replay. I remember spending weekend at my father without any way to reach my mom. Then I recall the day I got my first cell phone. The giant computer sitting on my desk. The bips of Internet before Wifi and the long minutes to get a connection. These days, I look at coffee machines estimating the exact amount of water they need according to the pod I put in to create the perfect beverage with an inquisitive eye. I don’t think I remember how to make coffee on my own. Isn’t this strange?
I sound like a granny. Okay, I feel old now. Really old. Just like Clive. Clive Lussac, who witnessed technology take over. Why deny the help computers and programmes can offer if it means being more efficient? Healthier? Safer? The UK slipped from technology being a tool for humans to humans swimming in a technology-regulated universe. It all started with good intentions, but like with many good things, if the dosage goes through the roof, the effects can be damaging.
Proximity hits hard and cold right to the heart of what could be our future, and this knowledge makes this book one of the scariest I have ever read. I don’t care for horror. Just give me a speculative novel shaping a future so realistic I don’t even need too close my eyes to imagine it, and I’m sold. Sold and freaked out. Jem Tugwell’s outstanding description of years to close to ours to my taste left me speechless. Yet, my head was buzzing with questions. How does it work? How can the law bend to allow such control over human beings? Is it worth it? What if by going too far, we erase what makes us ‘human’, only to turn us into living machines without a free will? Then I reacted to my own reactions! Did I really sound so old-fashioned? Would the help of every available technology really be that bad if it helped us live longer and avoid awful things like diabetes, murders, and what not? Would I take the step? Did I want to?
See, this read didn’t just bring me a thrilling time, it made me think twice about the things I knew, the things I wanted, and the things I deemed possible! I stopped to ponder. I weighed the pros and cons. I made it a full case, without ever losing track of the plot. This is the absolute sign of a stunning read!
With a mind stuck in its present and exploring a future that seemed gloomy, I let Proximity poke me, challenge me, and take me out of my comfort zone. And I relished the process! There was something exhilarating in the sense of familiarity brought by the author clashing with the unknown feeling of chips and computers knowing your bladder’s level and your exact location at every moment.
iMe knows everything about everyone in the UK. The Police Cyber department is where all the action is. DI Clive Lussac is a kind of dinosaur. Working at the Proximity Crime Unit, a closet for old ways, he is the one who brought technology to the police force, and he bitterly regrets it now. Clive is the Last Man Standing when it comes to old-school cops. DC Zoe Jordan, young copper fulfilling her compulsory time in Clive’s unit, is not very excited about the next three months she has to spend in an office with vacated desks and dust. The old, the new. Where Clive fights with a machine which refuses to give him what he wants, and offers a “healthier” option, Zoe doesn’t even think of going against what iMe tells her. iMe basically is the equivalent of a human Apple Finder/desk/all apps thingy. It controls what you eat, drink, it tells you when you’d better sleep, when you should workout. It opens your doors, it connects to the elevators to take you to the right floor. In a nutshell, it’s a creepy thing! The absolute version of a virtual stalker… Except it’s legal. In fact, it’s the norm! It crept into private lives before Clive Lussac himself got the amazing idea to use it to help the police make the streets safer. However, each coin has two faces, and now the policing work as he learned it has lost the battle. Everyone relies on technology to solve all issues.
Proximity is not a novel about technology building an empire to turn humans into slaves. No, Proximity is a relevant look at what we, people, can do with technology. It’s about who holds the power. It’s about us getting lazier. It’s about us. On some aspects, I was reminded of 1984. This is one of the best compliments I could give a book, as Orwell’s work is my favourite. Proximity only brushes the issue of the government controlling everything, but the claustrophobic feeling of iMe and the sense of life being shaped by someone else, the loss of free will, the constant surveillance, and let’s be honest, THE FACT YOU CAN’T EAT WHAT YOU WANT, really had me shivering with fear.
What do you do when a fully proofed system fails? That’s the one million question for Clive and young Zoe when a woman goes missing, as well as her signal. This first wave opens the door to a tsunami of questions about iMe, and inexorably, its very own existence. The thing is, when you’ve been relying on technology for ten years, how do you cop(e)? Yes, it’s a play on words with the noun cop, representing the police guy, turned into a verb, and the verb cope itself. Cos I’m clever and no programme would have come up with that one! See how important it is to
choose your food yourself? keep your mind free?
Half the book sees our team struggle to make sense of data which doesn’t make sense. Zoe truly believes in the system and bets on an issue that can be resolved by IT guys. Clive’s instinct tells him to move his bottom and shake his memory until his detective cap loses all the mould it has gathered disappears. Can one guy fight the system, prove it wrong, and get ahead of a killer on its own?
With little clues and most doors closed, it takes a while before both police officers get a lead. In the meantime, the case grows and more bodies are at risk. Jem Tugwell created a giant tech-cake with thick layers ready to give the reader a good time, a compelling ride, and a clever race against a ‘thief’. His writing, combined with an outstandingly ingenious plot, make for an absolutely twisted sight of our future! From a slow-paced-standing-on-the-edge-of-a-dilemma countryside road to a what-the-hell-is-happening-things-just-turned-personal freeway lane, Proximity delivers on every level!
When the world staggers in its boots, we get the chance to know what Clive and Zoe are made of. You can plunge people into a virtually-led world, but you can’t take their basic instincts out of them. That’s what makes the difference between a piece of technology, and mankind.
Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University. In a past life, Jem had a successful career in investment management, and he now lives in Surrey with his wife. He has two great children and a dog. Outside of his family and writing, Jem’s loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes. Proximity is his thrilling debut.