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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 20 February 2015
The world is unfair to Simon Ings.

With his mash-up of multi-layered narrative, cyberpunky characters and deep interest in how technology perverts us, there's a goodish chance that on some alternative planet he's as lauded as JG Ballard and David Mitchell.

`The Weight of Numbers' seemed, for a short while in 2006, on the verge of becoming his breakthrough novel, but the right butterfly didn't flap its wings at the right time. Meanwhile `Wolves' has 7 reviews on Amazon and `The Bone Clocks', 259.

Does Ings care? `Wolves' certainly doesn't chase readers. The novel nods to the ever-popular Dystopian World genre, but refuses to get dramatic in tone or narrative. It's a story of human relationships, but the characters are opaque and diffuse.

The novel starts fantastically well. Conrad, our twenty-something, sexually ambivalent narrator (also known as `Connie'), is in a desultory relationship with a woman who has huge, white, robotic hands. He receives a call from boyhood friend Michel. Thus begins a journey both back into the past and into the future.

The world Ings builds is a singular one. Drab housing estates, floods, a long-standing war that seems to hardly affect the wider population, point to the present. But futuristic image recognition technology comes to play an increasingly important part, reflecting the novel's main theme of appearances and disappearances, the elusive nature of reality.

Conrad has grown up in a roadside hotel with a bipolar mother and a father who runs a side business trying to improve the vision of soldiers blinded in the war. He now works in the field of Augmented Reality (roughly two steps on from VR), bringing two-dimensional advertising to life. Michel is obsessed with `The Fall', rather like the Michael Shannon character in `Take Shelter', and has become a writer of End Times fiction (Ings takes some snitty and ill-advised potshots at `commercial' novels). Their lives move closer together again in complex and uneasy ways. There is also a central mystery involving Conrad's mother.

Ings is a terrific phrasemaker. His tone is pleasingly jaundiced. His characters do lack vividness, however. The narrative is choppy, and can drift. Putting a novelist character into a novel always seems lazy and vain on the part of the author. So not a perfect work, but still one that often challenges and involves.
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on 13 February 2014
A new breed of postmodern Mad-Men are intent on smearing a commercial veneer across the digital mirror world accessed via our smart glasses, contact lenses, phones and (maybe) even remote nerve stimulation, but one of them has secrets of his own and nowhere real to hide them.

The future here may be augmented, possibly unreal, but Simon Ings has created a compelling truthful sense of the world in his return to science fiction. One that echoes with memories of Iain Banks' The Crow Road, with dark family secrets left unburied, and populated by the kind of restlessly ambivalent anti-heroes you'd expect to find in JG Ballard's contemporary disaster novels.

Fans of Ings' equally excellent Dead Water will find a much more controlled narrative at work here, with a single character perspective proving the best way to navigate (or misdirect) readers through an increasingly uncertain world, while new readers will find plenty of literary meat amidst the technological trappings to get their wolfish teeth into.
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on 1 April 2014
Wolves is a brilliant novel. Simon Ings creates a world that is both human and stripped of humanity: a bleak vision of an unspecified future where all the human failings are the same as they are now, but the world is a technological nightmare and greed is at the centre of it. This story is part science fiction, part detective, and part horror. I felt wrenched by the end of it. I felt as if I’d been taken on a roller coaster ride blind folded. I’d read it again and again.
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on 21 July 2014
I bought this book on the strength of a review in the Sunday Times which pitched it as a gripping thriller set in a dystopian future. If you squint very, very hard, you could describe it as that, but I wouldn't.

This book is so thoroughly detached from reality that I found nothing to engage with. The future it describes is (one presumes) England, but the writer deliberately removes all traces of the country we live in now. No place-names, no sense of how this near-future is arrived at. There is a war going on (apparently) but he doesn't tell us who's fighting. No war in history has ever had less impact on the country that fought it.

The characters wander round rather aimlessly and there is some very precious writing about their situation but very little sense of what they do, because nothing is named, no places are related to each other and everything just slides away.

Early in the book, there is some quite graphic sexual writing about the main character's girlfriend who has had a traumatic accident. You could say that it is an honest confrontation of the guilt felt when a loved one is disabled. You could also say that it is voyeurism of the worst sort. I'll let you decide.

I stopped reading this book and I've only left this review because I didn't start reading it until after it was too late to get a refund. My bad.

Finally, this book is written in the present tense, for no good reason that I can see. All writers who persist in this affectation should be forced to declare it in their blurb.
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on 16 November 2015
Good book in many ways but you feel the character development got in the way of the story development. A lot goes unexplained.
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on 22 February 2014
Early on while reading this I was tempted to put it to one side and try another book. But I stuck with it and am so glad that I did. It builds wonderfully and has a great ending. But the final third I found it almost impossible to put down.
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on 15 May 2015
The technological development of "Augmented Reality" touches our Frankenstein-like fears. It says much about humanity's concerns about the run-away progress of technology fueled by our hedonistic and addictive tendencies. Although set in the future it feels very much a story of today: some already live with regular flooding, long standing war, drop-out parents, vigilante run housing estates. The most convincing relationship in the book is the friendship between the two men who develop AR, The female "love" interest is an unconvincing, barely rounded character and the hero's relationship with his daughter even less convincing.
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on 18 September 2014
I almost put 1 star but I could bear to slog through to the end so raised to 2. So many detailed descriptions of pointless things it just becomes a laborious read. I continued reading in the hope of revelations that never came. There are occasional good bits but they are so few and far between I wouldn't recommend this book.
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on 5 July 2014
Ignore the sci fi tag. This is not genre fiction. it is literary fiction of the highest class. Effortless, unselfconscious style which is fluidly poetic. You need to read every word. I was captivated from the first page. As for the setting, call it the future if you like, it felt very present tense to me.
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on 21 October 2014
Didn't finish - wasn't sure where it was going, didn't care about the characters, was in no way disturbed.
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