Anyone looking to escape the grim reality of the state of the world should probably brace themselves before diving into MT Hill’s near-future SF. Although it does dart further and further into the future over the course of its story (and, at one point, into the sci-fi novel written by one of the characters), Zero Bomb begins in a “the future tomorrow” time period of rolling terrible news, climate change, terror attacks, government oversight and post-Brexit collapse.
Remi is a man struggling to cope with the recent death of his daughter Martha, deciding to abandon his wife and make his way south to start again in London. He’s starting to put some semblance of a life together when he’s attacked by a self-driving car and approached by an impossibly intelligent fox, while Martha’s name and image keep appearing somehow. Finally, he’s approached by a covert group who tell him that his daughter is in fact alive and they know where she is…but he’ll have to do what they say.
This sounds like the beginning of a cyberpunk conspiracy thriller but, while this opening section is really quite gripping, Hill is working on something different. Rather than stick with Remi and his struggle, the author jumps away across several different perspectives (and that novel) to paint a much broader picture of what’s going on and what the United Kingdom of this future looks like. It’s grim in places, bitterly funny in others, but what’s really interesting is the contrast between Remi’s helpless despair as he shields himself from the news (and the consequences of that), the fevered single-mindedness that draws people into a conspiracy, and how the next generation are going to have to deal with a lot of our shit.