Absolute Knowledge, written by independent author Drew Cordell, is the product of a successful Kickstarter project, and is a novel that feels reminiscent of elderly SF. The synopsis is as follows:
‘It’s amazing how significantly our lives can change in such a short amount of time. Whether it’s a fateful meeting with an old friend, a chance encounter, or an epiphany that seems to materialize from thin air, the lifelong chain of events that follow forever set us on a different path.
My life changed in a matter of minutes. The choices I made led me to a life of crime and caused me to become the worst sort of criminal; I became a traitor to the country of New York. For better or worse, the path my life has taken is irreversible.
I’ve killed, I’ve died, and I’ve risked my life in attempt to destroy a society built on over one hundred years of lies and corruption. Though I have regrets, I’m proud of the way I handled things.
My name is Jacob Ashton, and this is my story.’
As mentioned above, the novel starts very promising, reading very much very similar to the likes of Ray Bradbury, George Orwell with a smattering of William Gibson, Lois Lowry and Suzanne Collins. Lured by the lovely cover artwork, and drawn in by use of John Locke, I was intrigued. In this world, thoughtcrime plagues society along with a lack of creativity and freedom.
The way in which Cordell designed his novel works well. Each chapter and chapter heading distills a certain theme in which he examines quite well, though this is mostly during the beginning when he deals with illegal reading/knowledge, the servitude of his people and the environment. There is skill with Cordell’s writing, especially as he blends such inspirations (which include such titles including The Giver and Fahrenheit 451), this being something in which titillated the classical SF nut within me. Cordell knows the genre, understands it and uses it to his advantage to give the reader a nicely designed and interesting world. I commend him for that.
My primary concern stems from Cordell’s simplistic story. It follows the structure of the YA/Joseph Campbellian novel: “evil world + young hero + young love + deus ex machina + wise old man + revolt = novel”, and I find this to be problematic, especially as the reader can assume the ending from simply skimming the beginning. I’m assuming that most readers wish to be consistently surprised, keen and hungry for more, but alas I unfortunately had no emotional investment for I knew that whatever happened to the special teenager protagonist, he would undoubtedly prevail (sorry, spoilers, but it’s so obvious that it doesn’t matter).
It is because of the simplicity of Cordell’s novel, I came to the realisation that I don’t think this novel was intended for me, or my kind of audience, but then again, I’m unsure if a younger audience would understand the finer dystopic points Cordell lovingly inserts into his work. To write a successful YA dystopia one must, akin to Lowry’s The Giver, write it simple enough for the younger audience but involve complicated issues for older and far more discerning readers. Cordell does deliver with some complicated themes, but also buries it with copious technobabble, repetitive dialogue and an excessive length with little to no action. I think that this would prove difficult for younger readers to proceed beyond the first half of the novel, especially as the protagonist becomes part of the YA rebellion trope.
It also goes without saying that there is a jarring difference between the first half of the novel and second part. I much preferred the humble beginnings whereby the protagonist was finding his feet in this toxic world with his female friend and older, wiser companion. It would’ve made for a nicer, darker and subtler piece. But just as I was getting into it, I was met with the Id of the YA rebellion, my heart sinking as I realised that the sixteen year-old protagonist is the special chosen one.
Though there are many issues with the novel, I do feel the love put into the world. There is a lot of work and effort put into this story, and for that I cannot disparage it. This is what indie writing is all about, anyone can have a dream or idea, put it to words and share it with the masses. Cordell has done this well, and I do recommend this novel for anyone wanting a quick taste of cyberpunk, or a younger crowd wanting to examine a simplistic story before going onto Gibson or Neal Stephenson.
If you’ve read Cordell’s Absolute Knowledge, please let me know what you think below! Have any recommendations for my critical eye? Don’t be afraid to suggest books, films, etc. on our Facebook page or my Twitter.