Behind the frenzied story of cyberindustrial espionage, Holophin reads as a warning. Our wants and needs from technology haven’t changed, but the technology itself has grown far beyond our current handsets and tablets. The Holophin is a microcomputer in the guise of a tiny dolphin shaped sticker. Once attached to the person, the Holophin, equipped with its own personality, links directly into the mind. The protagonists are free to alter their perception of day-to-day life, enhance memories and install experimental software straight to their brain. But what seems to be a step towards evolution as a species soon becomes a nightmarish sprint through shifting realities and clues disguised as memories disguised as fairytales.
Kennard, who has already shown himself to be an exceptional poet, has now tackled prose with equal success. He clearly has a comprehensive and practical knowledge of the cyberpunk genre which he uses as a medium to craft a compelling story that sits comfortably within the canon of William Gibson or Richard K. Morgan without being overly derivative.
Releasing a novella seems to be pretty trendy right now, what with numerous publishers trying to push ‘books you can read in one sitting’, but bandwagon or not, Holophin is a cleverly crafted story and its length feels in no way contrived. If it has one shortcoming, it is that the ending is slightly rushed. After a frenetic fifty or so pages, I would have liked the pace to slow as the end drew near, but this in no way weakens the pretty dramatic conclusion.
What Kennard brings to this style of prose that is rarely seen in other authors, is a use of language (especially syntax) as an emotional vehicle. As the protagonist, a young and exceeding bright girl, starts to doubt herself and get lost in her own constructed world, we start to doubt her too. The writing shifts from fast and forward-moving to paranoid and intertwining.
As a fan of this type of genre fiction, I feel I can be overly critical, but if Kennard decided to stick solely to sci-fi prose from now on I certainly wouldn’t be unhappy.
Holophin by Luke Kennard is published by Penned in the Margins and will be launched as a limited edition hardback on September 1st.
Nick Murray was inspired by Holophin to write a short essay on the evolution of cyberpunk. Alongside Holophin, novels featured in that article include Neuromancer by William Gibson and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.