Spherical Knives by Ash Gray is a journey into the absurd where bananas fall from the sky, ants curse, people are literally coming apart at the seams, and robots rule the planet with a metal fist. This is book one in the all Apart World.
Life in Surge City on planet Gumball is one of dreary monotony. The humanoids of the planet lead a dronish existence devoid of colour, feeling and expression. In a repetitive drudgery reminiscent of Metropolis workers, humanoids plug away incessantly at seemingly meaningless jobs. Perpetually in fear of their robot guardians, they obey them without question until they inevitably succumb to the Rot and become biofuel for the droids.
Lucy is a beacon of light in this bleak city, preferring to surround herself with colour and cheer. When she discovers the Rot has finally taken hold of her, she decides she is not going to be on the Robots’ next menu. With the help of a sentient Mannequin, a Robot Guard (who happen to be attracted to her) and her odd pet goat she plans to escape her destiny as dinner and flee into the wastelands. But what chance does such a group of misfits have against the Dominion of Droid?
If you think you’re having a bad morning, wait until you meet Lucy. Waking up for yet another dismal day of work, her life is turned upside down when she notices her finger has fallen off. Faced with the realization that the Rot has finally taken hold of her, we get to see what Lucy is really made of.
Always a bit of a rebel, Lucy decides to opt for self-preservation rather than succumbing to the will (and appetite) of the Dominion of Droid. She takes everything in stride, which I really admire about her character. Instead of giving up, we get to watch her evolve as she learns about freedom, choice and resistance and makes some interesting friends along the way.
Molly the mannequin is rather like a child in some respects. Sentient but having spent her entire existence confined to a small part of town, she jumps at the chance to help Lucy and expand her horizons. And then there is Droid 0.748921 who also questions the wisdom of the Dominion of Droid. The droid develops an attraction to Lucy because of her difference and her brightness, a contrast to everything she has known. It is definitely the most unusual cast of characters I have encountered.
The Writing Style
In the immortal words of Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” This book is a trip into the world of the bizarre. Absurdities such as bananas falling from the sky as rain, cantankerous ants and neurotic pet goats are juxtaposed against thought provoking ideas surrounding work, politics and ‘human’ nature.
Weirdness abounds in this novella and holy imagery! Gray paints an incredibly vivid picture of the decaying city; barren, gray and devoid of personality as well as the wasteland that surrounds it. There is an interesting combination of absurd, grotesque and surreal images throughout the story that are simultaneously fascinating and repulsing making it such a fun read.
Reading this book was like seeing a whacky dream in print. It is like you are floating in that semi-conscious period when you aren’t entirely sure if you are awake or still dreaming and you are trying to make sense out of what has just transpired. You are slightly confused and thrown off kilter but also intrigued. I enjoyed the feeling immensely.
Humanoids are essentially treated as slaves by the robots who control them with extreme violence. There is also grotesque imagery used that some readers may not enjoy. And really, this book is a foray into the absurd, if you are looking for something logical and sensical this story is not for you.
If you are looking to venture far off the beaten path and read something that is way out there, then this book is for you! It is completely different from anything mainstream.
Excerpt from Spherical Knives by Ash Gray
“We all have the Rot, sooner or later,” muttered Mango, slipping her glove back on. “My advice? Be smart. Go home. Forget it’s happening. I’ll clock you in sick.”
Lucy stared at the woman in disbelief. “Forget it’s happening? We should be doing something about this! Every time one of us falls apart, the robots use us for biofuel. They are literally eating us, and we all just go along with it!”
“What do you suppose we do?” said Mango, eyes hooded indifferently. “The robots are stronger than us, smarter than us. They have no fear, they know no pain, and they’re always watching.” She glanced unhappily at the camera on the wall, knowing she would face the consequences later for having turned it off. “How can you overcome an enemy like that?” she said, shaking her head. “No, Socket. Best keep your head down and just avoid getting’ caught. I can send you to someone who can patch you up, but it’ll cost you.”
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