Wolves by Simon Ings

Augmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else.

Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.

Wolves is a difficult book to categorise - the blurb says it’s ‘a picture of a dark tomorrow that is just around the corner’ - so it is a dystopic look at how our world could develop, but that is the background to a murder mystery, with elements of horror, thriller and an exploration of friendship and humanity woven through.

The protagonist, Conrad, is at the cutting edge of the technological advances into building an alternative reality landscape that can be layered on top of the city, whilst his childhood friend, Michel, dreams of floating away in a drowned JG Ballard-style world. They are both idealistic in their own way; Conrad trying to create and control a new world through changing people’s perception of what is around them, whilst Michel builds visions of an apocalyptic future through fiction and wants to sail away from ‘reality’, but each have their ideals worn down.

I loved this book, probably because it wasn’t a clear-cut dystopic novel or murder mystery. Ings’ writing creates an incredibly vivid world with a strong theme of body horror, which leaps out of the page with a shock. Conrad grows up in a hotel for wounded soldiers who have been blinded by lasers on the front line, but these men remain faceless as well as eyeless – reduced to nameless animatronic versions of what they were; the only sound they make the echolocation clicking of the vests his dad has built to help them try and ‘see’ the world again. At the beginning of the book he is living with a girlfriend who lost both of her hands in a car accident and now her face is ‘ragged’ and the prosthetics are ‘big clown hands’. Sex is brutal and animalistic and often uncomfortable to read – hyper-real in the way Conrad’s Augmented Reality technology has made the world. This focus on bodies is contrasted against the closing off of people from one another as Augmented Reality moves from being a geek’s game with cumbersome equipment into a commonplace method of creating your own world via contacts or implants directly into the eye.

Wolves is about how each of the characters perceives the world and as Michel invites Conrad back into his life, and his mother’s possible murder once again rises to the surface, it become clear that reality is far more complex than we might first think.

If you are looking for something a bit different, definitely give this book a go.

Wolves by Simon Ings
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Gollancz (16 Jan 2014)

9/10 If you are looking for something a bit different, definitely give this book a go.

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