Review: The Rig

Roger Levy’s The Rig is better than it seems at first; if you’re having doubts, I’d encourage you to persevere if you can.

For much of its 600+ pages it reads like a pretty traditional SF dystopia. It’s set in a hyper-capitalist future in which humanity has spread to the stars, at the cost of longevity, good health and high standards of living. People die in their forties after a life being manipulated by a few powerful rulers. All but the inhabitants of two planets have given up religion. The one thing that gives hope to most of humanity is AfterLife, a programme which allows people to vote on which of the dead should be given a second chance at life, based on what they did when they were alive.

Against this backdrop: a murder happens. A man who’s suffered severe neural damage goes to work on a rig on the aptly-named planet of Bleak. Two children grow up on the fundamentalist Christian planet of Gehenna.

It’s all very grim, and violent; very straight, white and male. (There’s just one major female character, despite this being a world that’s apparently equal-opportunities.) But as the novel unfolds it becomes apparent that it’s quite a complex meditation on memory, story-making and belief. What happens when we no longer have the consolations of religion? Is there a middle way between fundamentalism and atheism?

It’s surprisingly rare for SF to tackle these themes, but The Rig manages it in a way that is not trite, not purely academic, not preachy nor too earnest. It’s also worth noting that it features two neurodivergent characters, though I’m not sure if one of them isn’t too stereotypical. What The Rig is, is a novel that’s a bit out of the way for SF; considered and thoughtful, despite the violence of its world.

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