Simon Ings’ Wolves is a tale of a man who is haunted by his past yet who is building a future that may change the entire course of civilisation. But as he helps build this new world, by using the latest technology to slowly change reality to fit people’s own personal perceptions, his past and present collide.
At it’s heart, Wolves is a character piece and this only really works if you’ve got a strong lead character. Thankfully Simon Ings has given us a great one in the form of Conrad, or Connie to his friends. The book is told from his point of view and we really get a good look at a man who doesn’t know exactly where he’s going in life. Fuelled by events in his past which have shaped him into the man he is today, it is interesting to watch as these events start to intrude on his present situation and force him to remember traumatic events from his life whilst also questioning where the Hell he is going.
Along his travels, we learn about his past through revelations about his father, a man who ran a hotel and helped create technology for blind veterans to see with. His mother, a woman who suffered from severe depression mixed with strange flights of fancy and who’s death has never been properly explained. His best friend Michel, a man obsessed with being prepared for the end of the world and who Conrad has a unspoken love for. A former patient of his father turned businessman who wants to help Conrad’s technology take off, even though Conrad has many unresolved issues with him. All of these characters, and more, are written well and, as this is Conrad’s tale, help to propel both the story and his personal journey along at a brisk pace.
The technological side to things is at first slightly jarring as Conrad talks about things as if we are already aware of them (as mostly everyone in the world he lives in has become). They deal with augmented reality, which basically means letting people use audio/visual/sensory technology so that they can see what they want to see. In the case of his father’s work, this involves allowing blind soldiers a simulation of sight. In Conrad’s case, these things start off as advertising tools which are used as gimmicks, (say, making people see a projected image of a movie star at one of their screenings) before he starts working with a co-worker called Ralf, to takes things a step further and create an augmented reality that slips over the real world.
Weirdly, as I read these sections and saw just how wide reaching the implications of this technology becomes (to the point of being artificially implanted in people’s eyes rather than being controlled through headsets, etc), I couldn’t help but think of someone reading a story years ago which featured seemingly advanced technology which are commonplace in today’s society (all in one handheld devices, etc) and how ridiculous this must have seemed to them. Though I think we’re a good few years away from the story in the book, the similarities are there and there is a certain dry cynicism displayed regarding how many people will use these types of ‘distractions’ as an convenient way to stop themselves from facing up to the realities of the cold hard world. There is also a recurring apocalyptic theme (a subject Michel is obsessed with and even writes best-selling books about) which raises interesting questions concerning this brave new world. With such distractions and the ability to shape the world around us to our will, would we actually even notice that the real world was ending? More importantly, secure in own virtual world, would we even care?
So why should you read this book:
- A strong central characterisation
- An intriguing story where the past crashes into the future
- A disturbing look at a possible future
- Apocalyptic themes
What’s not to like:
- Some of the sexual material might be slightly graphic
A genuinely interesting book that manages to tell a great story of one man’s personal journey through life whilst also looking at deeper issues involving society and technology. By the end of the book, Conrad’s questions will mostly have been answered, but brilliantly, Ings’ has given you enough food for thought that yours certainly won’t be.
We give Simon Ings’ Wolves 4 out of 5 Nerds
Image source: Wolves