An Android Awakes


By Mike French & Karl Brown (Elsewhen Press)
ISBN: 978-1-908168-63-4

It’s been a while since we looked at anything experimental so here’s an intriguing blend of illustrated book and graphic narrative which has a lot to recommend it.

In the world that’s coming, human beings are in decline and androids on the ascendant. Sadly our synthetic successors are prey to all the emotional foibles and insecurities we were. They’re very much like us except they can eat rivets and get really hammered on oil…

They especially have an overwhelming desire to experience fiction, even if the powers-that-be are as sleazy, quixotic, unpredictable, small-minded, corporate and blinkered as any meat-and-bone based publisher ever was…

Android Writer PD121928 is part of the Android Publishing Program. The state provides for his needs (drugs, whores, deep-frozen pets and the removal of his wife so that he can achieve the proper frame of artistic angst and squalor) and in return he conceives increasingly outré and wild adventure tales. It’s the same deal for every creative automaton in the system: Filmmakers, photographers, artists, whatever…

He hasn’t sold one yet which is becoming a bit of a problem since Android Writers are only allowed 42 submissions. If they can’t land a publishing contract before getting 42 rejection slips, they’re scrapped and another musing mechanoid gets his shot in the Program…

With the ignominious return of The Eating of Citizen Kane, PD121928 is down to his last 14 lives (a situation not unlike that of the succession of cats periodically thawed out to keep him company. It’s a shame they keep dying or going missing…) and the tension sends him into a paroxysm of creativity with us carried along on the surprisingly brief and exotic adventures of the pantheon of character-creations that have become so very real to the stressed creator…

Through the carefully crafted and impossibly interconnected stories of Finn, The Locust Wife, Abel Ford, Angel UK, Cai Lun, Richard Steinberger, The Great Explorer Umberto Amunsden, Commander Oleg, Aedus Cricklewood, Jiéyǔ The Detective and Mark, via recurrent motifs of mockingbirds and angel fish, the Android Writer pours out and repeatedly risks his life – even entering into unwise liaisons with a human prostitute on the Endangered List – as he struggles to survive and simultaneously wonders why he bothers…

Mike French’s beguiling, fantasy-vignette studded account of a creator-in-crisis is augmented by and combined with a wealth of raw and jarring monochrome illustrations from Karl Brown, but unlike most illustrated tomes these pictures are fully integrated into the text and often supplant the narrative entirely, detailing key moments of specific submissions such as ‘The Amazing Arctic Sinking Man’, ‘OAP Extraction’, ‘The Antiquity of Zero’, ‘The Great Sea in the Sky’, or ‘The Sacrament of Abel Ford’ with extended sections of mute sequential art just like the heydays of European sci fi comics or classic 2000AD.

And then it’s time for Submission 42 and the desperately spiralling writer has a really different idea…

Overtones of Barrington J. Bayley, Christopher Priest and especially Michael Moorcock (when he was writing Breakfast in the Ruins) give this portmanteau of tales within tales a splendidly refined and timeless feel as a litany of cool ideas and stand-out characters weep out in the truncated (1000 words per…) yet expansively polished format of tomorrow’s word-counted entertainments…

Smart, challenging and well worth any jaded fantasist’s rapt attention.
Text © Mike French 2015. Artwork © Karl Brown 2015. All rights reserved.
An Android Awakes is also available as an eBook (ISBN: 978-1-908168-73-3)