Review: The Call by Rab Ferguson

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Rab Ferguson's The Call was published in Cyber Smut in September 2020 by Guts Publishing, which is an independent publisher in London.

About Rab Ferguson:

Rab Ferguson is a York based writer of fiction and poetry. He's been published in several journals including Litro Magazine, Storgy, Voice-In Journal, Under the Fable and The City Fox. He's also a performing storyteller, and has been known to wear a woollen cape.

Click here to visit his official website.

Cyber Smut: Short Stories and Poetry by various authors (Guts Publishing)
Cyber Smut: Short Stories and Poetry
by various authors (Guts Publishing)

A daring collection of fiction, nonfiction and poetry about how the internet and technology impact our lives, our sexuality and how we love. From the critical theory-informed essay 'Cyberwhores_Sex_Robots_and_Aliens' to the investigation of artificial intelligence in 'The Call' to the unvarnished truth behind 'Send Nudes'. It’s an edgy read on contemporary culture you won’t want to miss.


Because I enjoyed reading Rab Ferguson's excellent The Dancer, I was eager to read The Call. I'm glad I had an opportunity to read this story, because it's a well written speculative fiction story that explores artificial intelligence from a fresh point of view.

Before I write more about The Call, I'll mention that I haven't read the other stories in the Cyber Smut anthology yet, so I can't say anything about them except that I've heard this anthology explores how internet and technology affect our lives, our sexuality and how we love. At this moment, I'm only reviewing this story, but I'll take a look at the other stories a bit later.

The Call is a story about a man called Owen who talks on the phone with a woman, Anna. Owen has called the BeFriendNation UK befriending hotline, which is a charity-funded hotline. This hotline is 90% manned by Artificial Intelligence and 10% by human volunteers.

Throughout the story, it is not entirely clear if Owen is speaking with is a real human being or an AI. The author writes fascinatingly about loneliness and a person's need to connect with somebody. Because Owen is lonely and he is aware of the hotline's policy of using AIs on the phone lines, he is cautious at first, but gradually begins to reveal more about himself to Anna. When their friendship begins to grow over the phone, it's intriguing to follow what happens.

I like Rab Ferguson's writing style in this story, because his clear prose fits the story perfectly. He writes well about Owen and Anna's conversation, because he pays attention to how Owen and Anna act on the phone and what happens when Owen begins to listen to Anna and helps her over the phone. The author's way of exploring artificial intelligence feels intriguingly fresh, because he has come up with a surprisingly humane story.

The story flows well and gathers momentum towards the ending. I won't reveal anything about what happens to the characters, but I can mention that I enjoyed the ending.

Rab Ferguson's The Call is a short, fast-paced and interesting story that deserves to be read. Just like The Dancer, this story is something special and different. I was pleased with this story and look forward to reading what the author writes next.