Sunday, December 10, 2017

Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required by Michael Strelow  
Roundfire Books: 12/8/17
eBook review copy; 208 pages
ISBN-13: 9781785356278

Some Assembly Required by Michael Strelow is a recommended humorous science fiction novel.

Jake James is a writer. He also has always heard voices and has learned to not tell people about it after that disastrous initial disclosure in grade school. His voices aren't bad. They don't tell him what to do. They might poetically describe a scene, or just say his name, and he's learned to co-exist with them. He doesn't talk about them to anyone, including his girlfriend, and life is good.

When Jake is on an assignment covering an A.I. convention he listens to the presentation of Dr. Sewall. While the presentation is without fanfare and barely audible, when Jake actually reads the paper presented, his interest is piqued. Jake sets off to visit Sewall at his office, located at the back of the Ag department at the university. It is there that Jake sees Rex. Rex is a sentient being that resembles a blob of gray-green oatmeal. Dr. Sewell apparently created Rex by inserting a form of AI he created using a mathematical algorithm into a bowl of oatmeal. Now the Dr. feeds him and Rex, while ravenous and growing, excretes a dust.

When Rex, or Rex II, reveals he has a voice, Jake begins to hear Rex's voice along with the other voices he already hears. Suddenly everything changes, including Jake's perception of the world. Or is Rex a symptom of Jake's undisclosed mental illness.

Some Assembly Required is a well-written sci-fi romp through the absurd. Jake is a likeable protagonist, with a quirky sense of humor and a self-effacing attitude. He's really an everyman - except for the voices. Once he starts talking to Rex, or Rex is altering reality, the story takes a turn. There were sections and descriptions in this novel that I liked very much and the writing is excellent. I loved it at the beginning and then, ultimately, the direction the plot took lost me. Other readers might enjoy it in entirety more than I did.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Roundfire Books.

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