Gritty. Sexy. Weird.
It’s not often that a novel comes along which is so engaging that you can’t stop thinking about it. You’re looking at your tbr list, but instead, you’re opting to reread the book instead of shelving it. Well for some new sci-fi novel Full Wire, the debut by J. R. McMenemie, will be such a novel.
A story of unrequited love in an age of transhumanism, set against the backdrop of a crime which takes place in London, in the year 2186, Full Wire concerns Pierre, a middle-class layabout, and his best friend Jani – “a tough girl with a dark past” – as they bounce around the city on a perpetual high of drugs and alcohol.
Organ cloning has become a profitable business. The technology has allowed much of the population to simply not care about the damage their narcotic lifestyle is doing to their bodies. Need a new liver? Just order one. Simple.
Of course, this kind of thing has a darker side, with many “splicers” operating at street level in a manner akin to 19th-century backstreet abortionists, and it’s one of these shady characters around which the story truly begins, setting off a cascade of ever-worsening events, which all culminate in a mind twisting ending reminiscent of Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The world of Full Wire feels lived in and used. It’s a grungy, slightly worn out kind of future which contrasts well against the backdrop of a glitzy city itself fallen foul of climate change and criminality. It’s a convincingly built world in a tech noir style, bringing to mind Blade Runner and other related classics of the genre.
The narrator, Pierre, is great company. You get the feeling he’s striving for something meaningful among the grit and the booze, and that meaning comes from his best friend Jani — he’s in love with her but he’s so frightened of her rejection that he keeps it to himself. The thing is, Jani feels exactly the same way. This dynamic between them is beautifully written and it broke my heart watching the pair struggle with their emotions.
It’s not all darkness and heartache though. Parts of Full Wire are very funny.
McMenemie strikes a balance between heartbreaking darkness and wild humour, which is a difficult thing to achieve. In fact, one of my favourite characters is “The Pod”, a taxi with a sassy and sarcastic AI interface that has all the best lines.
The writing throughout is tight and tense, with great dialogue and fantastic descriptive passages which never spill over into pure exposition. I lost myself entirely in the setting, which was crafted so convincingly it’s hard to imagine things not panning out the way the author describes them. It’s a believable future, and the characters feel real. The invented street slang “Qualla” seems completely plausible without it straying into Clockwork Orange territory, and every character is relatable and real, especially the man called Maclise, who completely invades the story and very nearly makes it all about him. It would be hard for anyone, having read this book, to imagine an antagonist without the mysterious shadow of Maclise casting itself across the page.
Full Wire isn’t a long book — I read it in a weekend — but the memory of it and the philosophical questions it raises will stay with me for a long time. In short, Full Wire is an absorbing mind bending debut from an exciting new writer.
Full Wire is published by Indie Novella. For more information click here >