Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

19/06/2024
Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

It feels a little like British science fiction and fantasy author Adrian Tchaikovsky is jumping on a particular genre bandwagon with his latest book Service Model. That bandwagon being the robot/artificial intelligence view of humanity. Recent books such as TJ Klune’s In the Lives of Puppets and Robert C Cargill’s Sea of Rust and its prequel Day Zero imagine worlds in which humans have all but been extinguished and robots expand to fill our societal niches. But being Adrien Tchaikovsky, Service Model takes this idea and runs with it in new directions – in turns satirical, philosophical and always insightful.

George is a high end human-facing Valet Unit, a robot leading a robot workforce of maids, cooks and gardeners on an estate that house just one man. When Service Model opens, George kills his master for reasons that he cannot explain. Following a fantastic scene of logical bureaucracy taken to some bizarre extremes, George is dispatched to Diagnostics be repaired and then Decommissioning. Out of the estate for the first time, George finds a world that is falling apart. This culminates at Diagnostics, where he finds an unmoving queue of malfunctioning robots, more bureaucratic inertia and an extreme form of problem solving until he meets a robot who calls herself ‘The Wonk’. The Wonk wants to save George (now Ungeorge) and the two end up on a quixotic quest across the broken world as the Wonk tries to find out why this all happened while Ungeorge just wants to find meaningful employment as a valet.

This might be a book about a robot on a quest to find meaning but it also delves into various branches of philosophy and logic. Plenty of logic conundrums get a workout as the two protagonists try to logic their way out of situations in which logic itself has turned in on itself. Just in case his intentions are in anyway unclear, Tchaikovsky cheekily names the various parts of his book after religious, literary and philosophical figures (KR15-T [Christ], K4FK-R [Kafka], 4W-L [Orwell], 8ORH-5 [Borges] and D4NT-A [Dante]).

But Service Model is not just didactic philosophy. Tchaikovsky’s deadpan narration, and heightened situations, are the perfect vehicles for satirical observations and effect. And in Service Model he has plenty of targets – bureaucracy, historical reenactments, modern society, the justice system even robopocalypse narratives themselves. And he does this with a twinkle in his eye and a constant stream, of apposite pop culture references from The Wizard of Oz to Star Wars.

That Tchaikovsky can do all of this in an engaging narrative anchored around two memorable characters is why he has been nominated for and won numerous speculative fiction awards. In Service Model Tchaikovsky stays true to the tropes of robot stories, going all the way back to Asimov, but makes them his own and uses them to have fun, expose human foibles and explore a range of deeper themes and issues.

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Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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