/ Cory Doctorow / 4 am Tue, Nov 29 2016
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  • Normal: Warren Ellis's story of futurists driven mad by staring into the abyss of tomorrow

    Normal: Warren Ellis's story of futurists driven mad by staring into the abyss of tomorrow

    Last summer, Warren Ellis serialized a novel, "Normal," as a series of four novellas; today, they're collected in a single, short book that mainlines a month's worth of terrifying futuristic fiction in one go.

    The Normal Head center in rural Oregon is an off-grid sanatorium for futurists who are suffering from "abyss gaze" -- the madness that comes of thinking too hard about how absolutely fucked the future is. Adam Dearden is a "foresight strategist" who has been committed after a catastrophic breakdown that began in Namibia during a political uprising and came to a head in the Netherlands. He's been kidnapped/rescued from his own madness and brought to Normal, where he learns that the fabled secret hospital is divided into two camps: foresight strategists like him (working with civil society to make livable cities and solve geoengineering problems) and strategic forecasters, who work for spooks and armies to surveil and neutralize the world's teeming masses.

    Before Dearden's meds have washed out his body, Normal suffers its first-ever murder, or possibly an escape -- whatever it is, someone is definitely missing and possibly dead, and that person -- a strategic forecaster -- was the newest patient at Normal, until Dearden arrives. As Normal goes into lockdown, Dearden becomes the person most equipped to solve the mystery, leading a motley crew of lunatic futurists whose madness has driven them cannibalism and worse (one is an alt-right neoreactionary who believes in the singularity!) to find out what's really wrong, before it's too late.

    This is Warren Ellis at his most darkly hilarious and most acerbic. If you loved Transmetropolitan, laughed at Crooked Little Vein and were terrified by Gun Machine, this one will please and scare you.

    Normal [Warren Ellis/FSG]

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