Review: The Rig by Roger Levy

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Roger Levy's The Rig was published by Titan Books in May 2018.

Information about Roger Levy:

Roger Levy is a British science fiction writer. He is the author of Reckless Sleep, Dark Heavens and Icarus, published by Gollancz. He works as a dentist when not writing fiction, and was described as the ‘heir to Philip K. Dick’ by Strange Horizons.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about The Rig:

On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever.

On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications.

One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.

Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.

So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: the rig.


Roger Levy's The Rig is one of the finest British science fiction novels ever published. This outstanding novel is way above average science fiction, because the story gradually develops from an intriguing premise into a fascinating tale filled with complexity, weirdness and thought-provoking elements that make readers hold their breath in wonder. This novel was very much to my liking, because it's boldly different and wholly original.

To be honest, this novel is truly impressive due to it being unlike any other modern science fiction novels. It's a satisfyingly complex exploration of humanity, immortality, religion, culture and social media from an insightful and slightly twisted perspective. It's a tour de force of powerful and immersive storytelling with strong prose.

The Rig is a deeply captivating and immersive reading experience, because it's in equal terms literary speculative fiction, noir fiction, mystery fiction and space opera with a touch of experimental science fiction. The unique combination of various genres makes for a highly enjoyable read. One might easily think that it's not possible to combine these genres, but the author has succeeded in it and has managed to create a novel that stands out.

I think it's good to mention that The Rig is not for readers who want instant gratification from their novels, because the author lets the story unfold at its own pace. It's not an easy novel, because it has been written for those who want to immerse themselves in a complex and intricate story (I'm sure that it will please quality-oriented readers who appreciate intricate storytelling).

Here's a bit of information the story and some of the characters:

- In this novel, humans have spread across the depths of space and people are connected by the social media platform AfterLife. All humans are implanted with neurids that capture their essences and allow for a resurrection at a later date. AfterLife unites the System in a profoundly effective way and has replaced religion. When AfterLife's subscribers vote in the Afterlife, the votes determine which subscribers have a chance at resurrection. Internet has developed into the Song.

- Alef Selsior lives on the planet Gehenna and becomes friends with the psychopathic Pellonhorc. Pellonhorc is the son of the crime lord Ethan Drame and is tight-lipped about his past. Alef's life is followed through SigEvs, which are "significant events" connected to the AfterLife.

- Tallen is an engineer who lives on the border planet Bleak. His life changes when he wakes up in a hospital. He decides to become a rig operator.

- Razer is a writer who is looking for stories on Bleak. She works for TruTales, which is one of the ParaSites of AfterLife. She comes upon a string of killings.

- Bale is a police officer on the planet Bleak. He has had a brief affair with Razer.

- The crime lord Ethan Drame and his rival Spetkin Ligate bring a strong touch of mafia-style elements and striking harshness to the story.

The characterisation is excellent and engaging. It was a pleasure to read about the characters, because the author takes his time to introduce their lives and tells of their feelings in an effective way. Each of the main characters is fully three-dimensional and realistic.

Alef is an especially intriguing protagonist, because he is a talented and intelligent boy. There's something about his character that reminds me of people who have Asperger's syndrome, because he thinks in numbers and has difficulties to empathise with others.

The friendship between Alef and Pellonhorc is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this novel, because the author writes well about their friendship and what happens between them. The arrival of Pellonhorc changes Alef's life in many ways. They're are an odd pair of boys whose friendship will change the System.

The worldbuilding is fascinating and very impressive. The author has created a stunning vision of humanity's future, because humans have moved to another solar system to live on terraformed planets due to a catastrophe. The System consists of seven major planets and a few minor ones.

Gehenna is a deeply religious planet where godly writ is followed by all of its inhabitants. The inhabitants are religious fundamentalists who believe in living pure lives. Bleak is a windswept planet where life is harsh. The landscape on Bleak is dominated by enormous rigs that are used to extract the planet's molten core. There's also an unsaid planet that is an enigma to all, because it has retreated into protected seclusion, and there's an asteroid known as Peco.

Roger Levy's cultural and social media critique is thrillingly sharp and stinging without being preaching, overbearing or annoying. In my opinion, he has managed to create a perfect vision of futuristic social media that has come to dominate people's lives. What makes his vision especially fascinating and frightening is that something similar could actually happen in real life due to many people spending too much time playing with social media and numbing their minds with mindless folly.

This novel has a few memorable scenes that are intriguingly unsettling. As an example I can mention that the fate of the Amadeus Arkestra at the beginning of this novel is disturbing and memorable. It perfectly demonstrates what religious frenzy can be at its most fervent.

I was surprised to find amusing and intelligent puns in this novel, because I didn't expect them. It's great that the author uses English and linguistics to his advantage and warps English words into new format to suit his needs. He uses - among other things - such words as "Babbel", "goddery", "husman", "screenery" and "puter", the meanings of which will open to readers during the story.

This novel raises many questions and makes readers think about what is going on and what will happen in the story. When the story begins, readers are gradually introduced to the characters and the places. After a while the various bits and pieces begin to fit together and readers will find themselves completely immersed by the story.

Roger Levy writes excellent prose, because his literary prose is beautiful, layered and memorable. Describing his prose is a bit difficult due to him having his own writing style, but his prose feels like a combination of Philip K. Dick, Christopher Priest, Nina Allan, Ren Warom, Gene Wolfe and David Mitchell. if you've ever read anything by these authors, you'll find yourself at home with the prose.

Roger Levy's The Rig is intense and thought-provoking speculative fiction at its utmost best and most imaginative. This novel has been written for thinking adults and to those who want depth from their science fiction novels. If you enjoy reading intelligent and original science fiction, this novel is mandatory reading material for you, because it's outstanding in every respect.

Highly recommended!