The key to understanding Keith Brooke’s The Accord is this: fuck.
Wait, let’s try that again: FUCK!!!
This isn’t me swearing a lot in yet another review; this is Keith Brooke’s prose in his pathetic soap opera masquerading as cyberpunk. I don’t know if it’s just Brooke or an unspoken agreement between certain sci-fi writers (Charles Stross, to a lesser extent M. John Harrison and Richard Morgan) that characters in a futuristic world must never, ever speak naturally. The symptoms vary: most of the time it’s meaningless technobabble describing technology that isn’t probable and backed up by a form of science known to no man except maybe the gnome mages in Dungeons & Dragons, sometimes it’s people talking in a manner writers think super-geniuses would but which resembles nothing in reality. In Brooke’s case, it’s a mix of both plus a liberal use of “fuck” as the be-all, end-all outlet for emotion. Happy? FUCK. Sad? FUCKING FUCK. Angry? FUCKITY FUCK FUCK.
But then he realized it was not he they wanted to see, it was Charlie Fucking Bonnetti.
“Fuck me,” Burnham murmured into Lucy’s ear.
“Fucking result,” she says softly.
Must be coming on, she thinks. So fucking emotional.
But fuck, [Tate] had never been able to give a Nuat phaen boran massage like Sunan could!
“Malthus’d be having fucking kittens!”
And now she wants to say, Fuck, but that was good, Noah!
She refrains from interrupting, from teasing him for stating the fucking obvious.
What the fuck? Why? Who? And fuck, is he going to kill her again? Why? What the fuck?
By the way, “nuat phaen boran massage” translates to “traditional massage massage.” Ahhhh, the smell of white authors throwing in exotick words for flavor. Moron.
The swearing goes on, repetitively. Not cunt, not dicks, not balls, not shit. Not even shitcock. No. These characters know only one word and, in a manner decidedly pubescent for such grown-up and powerful politicians, stick to it like a leech. It doesn’t help that the rest of the time, the characters speak in a horrible sci-fi parlance: Noah Barakh seems to have forsaken all contractions in favor of stilted dialogue where he babbles about his idiotic non-scientific technology and repeats the word “interstitial” and “quantum” a few hundred times per minute, then turns around and tells his Twu Wuv Priscilla how she’s the ~*feathers in his wings*~. The prose shouts with exclamation! marks! The characters scream at one another in exclamation! marks! and fuck! The net result is that they sound like incompetent actors who think being very, very loud constitutes good acting, but since this isn’t a film I’ll chalk it up to Keith Brooke being incompetent.
The characters can be summed up like so:
In a souped-up virtual world called The Accord, three characters, an unflappable, all-knowing Professor (The Accord’s inventor), a scheming, vengeful Politician and the Woman (with no character of her own) that both love, engage in a love triangle that keeps on twisting through different scenarios in the Accord. Other stock characters (the Loyal Bodyguard, the Evil Hacker, the Efficient PA), and a host of those who end up in The Accord, have walk-on roles.
To expand: Noah Barakh, the Professor, is a stalker. He spends the entire book either contemplating Priscilla’s body or recreating different instances of her in the virtual reality until he finds one that’ll love him back, or whining that she doesn’t love him. The vengeful Politician Jack Burnham spends the entirety of the book being absolutely incompetent at politics and then raging about Priscilla’s supposed infidelity while whining whyyyy doesn’t she love me; I can’t even imagine how he managed to get to his position considering what a dimwit he is, so I attribute it to the Efficient PA, a Dutch-Chinese woman by the name of Lucy Chang (which is pretty much the default go-to Chinese name picked by an author whose knowledge of China stops at the nearest Chinese takeout). The Evil Hacker, by the way, is overweight and insane and a pedophile. Just in case being evil wasn’t enough, you know, and of course in this caliber of fiction, if you’re overweight you must ipso facto be evil. Priscilla Burnham, the Woman, has no personality. Literally. She is reiterated several times, killed several times, is reborn at least thrice. Each time she becomes less and less of a person, and in one incarnation she’s “hacked” to love her husband unconditionally. Skeevy. At one point she takes on an unusually ridiculous, Star-Warsy name of “Tish Goldenhawk.” She solves her emotional problems by fucking random strangers, including but not limited to a Buddhist monk who simply cannot resist her. Make no mistake: The Accord isn’t sci-fi. It’s romance, or at least a close cousin to it, but when the romance in question occurs between people who don’t have half a personality to go between the three of them and where the woman’s free will is at best questionable, I’m hard-pressed to give a fuck.
The virtual reality aspect isn’t worth mentioning, but the global scenario outlined in this book is a wonderful look into Keith Brooke’s understanding of politics, which can probably fill half a thimble–if that. What I especially enjoyed was that, in the real world, Earth has been wasted (not sure why, but whatever) and England’s being flooded with African immigrants who are being shot off their boats by racist vigilantes. The UK is one of the last remaining bastions of… whatever. I get the impression that the GLORIOUS GLORIOUS WEST is the only part of the world with a chance of survival, plus maybe China. A consequence of this is that, when the time comes for the virtual reality–the Accord–to go live, most Africans are shit outta luck and only a few refugees (or those born in England and living in London’s slums, because black people only live in slums) got the chance to upload their minds into storage.
Result: the Accord is filled with almost nothing but white people. No attempt is made to examine the assumption that in the future far, far away the bulk of power will still remain in the hands of colonialists–sorry, the UK/the US/EU (plus China–marginally! I mean, in a series where China is one of the two dominant superpowers but the director never deigns to allow one single Chinese major character on the show…). Africa’s a shithole, you understand. All of it. It can’t possibly have cities or technology or anything that’d have allowed people to upload, oh no. Why, in the real world even as I speak, I bet they still have to rely on campfires for cooking and didn’t you know everyone there is HIV-positive and raping women all the time?
I’ve no idea whom I hated more between all these characters. I decided, in the end, that I hated Keith Brooke the most and that he should drive his keyboard into an orifice of his choice (goatse it if he must, it’ll cause him less pain than what I suffered reading through this dreck) and never attempt fiction again.