Marlowe Kana is the story of the eponymous hero. Marlowe is a celebrity and a war hero. Well, a celebrity because she’s a war hero and it was all live-streamed.
She’s been arrested and tried for treason, despite being the darling of the nation, and is on her way to prison when she’s broken free by some sympathetic terrorists. This is the story of her journey from there.
I’m going to start this review by saying that this is Volume 1, Book 1. I’m not entirely sure why we need volumes and books, but that is likely to do with Peacock’s unorthodox publication method. The whole novel is being released episodically on the website, marlowekana.com, chapter by chapter, each Monday. Alongside this, you can buy the first three volumes as ebooks on Amazon, I think these make up the first book.
It’s a great delivery system and the style of writing is suited to short bursts of reading.
Each chapter is action packed and the story moves quickly from one point to the next. There’s definitely enough about this to keep the reader coming back for more each week.
Peacock’s world is based on some interesting concepts, which are clearly railing against the society in America today. It’s set after a non-specific War, with a capital “W”, and now the United American States are run by Imagen Corp, who hold a large sway over the President. Entertainment is the key to society and this is driven by a system of Feeds, or live streams, which each person tracking their followers. The ratings are dominated by the competition for the “Next Top Soldier”, of which Marlowe was the front runner before her downfall, with ten million of forty million citizens subscribing to her feed. This is all overseen by an AI assistant named JAQi, voice activated, ever helpful, and genuinely not sinister this far into the story.
This is all a good premise, if a bit heavy handed with the satire. To me, it felt a bit to American, too much a product of the current time over there in the US. But I’m also certain that’s what Peacock is going for, so I’ll forgive him that.
The action careers from one event to another without pause and there are hints at an overarching structure yet to become apparent.
One tool that Peacock does use well is dropping in a “Day in the Life of” chapter every now and again. Focusing suddenly on the POV of a random citizen as the events are happening. This really helps to flesh out the world without clumsy exposition, and his protagonist is too busy for these breaks. It’s a good use of changing pace that adds to the flow of the book.
My problem with this is mostly the main character. Marlowe is a gun-toting, cigar-smoking, synthetically-augmented super soldier. But more than that. She’s a bit of a dick. This far in and I’m still not rooting for her to win.
That’s not irredeemable, and importantly I am curious to find out more about her tale, the conspiracies around her arrest and the plans of the major players. Marlow herself seems to be just along for the ride with the rest of us.
The satirical premise is the most clever thing about this book. It’s not thinkers science fiction, it won’t ask big questions, and you won’t ponder anything important. It’s fun and as much as I hate cliches, it’s an “action-filled romp”. There’s explosions, gun fights and bionic arms punching through doors. If that’s the kind of thing you want to get lost in for a few hours then this is the one for you.
The best compliment I can give it is that I’ll probably check out the next volume on his website. It’s gripped me enough for that, I don’t think you could expect much else from this.