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  • Not a Linear Narrative

    3.5 stars Matthew De Abaitua's If Then is a surrealistic blend of the dystopian government control of 1984, the alternate history of Harry Turtledove, and the computer algorithms of The Matrix, with a touch of horrific human experimentation àla The Island of Doctor Moreau for added flavor. As computer programmers will recognize, "if then" is a basic logic command, which in this case is taken to the extreme by something known as "the Process." The fun of this book comes from discovering what the Process is and why it is using residents of the English countryside to complete this statement: "If you recreate the 1915 Suvla Bay landing from World War I, then . . ." Characters appear, disappear, and reappear as the Process tries to reach its ultimate goal. In this respect, the structure of If Then reminded me of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, but If Then is much more accessible. Its exploration of such themes as human self-determination and economic interdependency is engaging and thought-provoking, and it provides some lovely aphorisms along the way: "It is in his obsessions that mankind most closely resembles his machines." Those who prefer linear narratives may want to pass on If Then, but those willing to follow De Abaitua through the twisting of time and space will find much to savor. I received a free copy of If Then through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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