Martin MacInnes – Gathering Evidence (5 stars)

Martin MacInnes – Gathering Evidence

Inverness-based author's new novel makes reader become a conspiracy theorist; in the best possible way

Martin MacInnes' second novel starts with a neat but predictable sci-fi story about an addictive app which takes over the world. Thankfully, the Inverness-born author is just warming up. From the second section onwards, Gathering Evidence is every bit as disconcertingly engrossing as its acclaimed predecessor, Infinite Ground.

Shel and John are a young couple making a life together. Shel is a scientist on an extended research trip, studying one of the last living troops of bonobo chimpanzees, in a national park controlled by an authoritarian corporation. Soon after she leaves, John, a coder, suffers an accident. He awakes in their home with no memory, and all communication is denied to him by a sinister doctor.

Shel and John face urgent, parallel projects: hers is to gather understanding, his to recover it. The characters, like MacInnes' prose, are sometimes obsessively insistent, sometimes forensically patient. Gathering Evidence makes a conspiracy theorist of the reader, sending them scavenging across the pages for clues and cyphers, for overlaps between strands which should be separate, for integrations and disintegrations.

Gathering Evidence sits comfortably alongside peers such as Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's The Mushroom at the End of the World as a superbly current novel of 21st-century pattern recognition, portraying a world where digital advancement and environmental devastation might be the same thing.

Out via Atlantic Books on Thu 6 Feb.

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