Monday, 23 July 2018

Happiness for Humans by P Z Reizin

Once in a while along comes a book that captures current obsessions and weaves them into a great story. Happiness for Humans is just such a novel - a fun, compelling read that hits the spot in so many ways.

Our two main (human) characters are Jen, who has just been dumped by her smug lawyer boyfriend, and Tom who is trying find new meaning in life since divorce and his son leaving home for university. The narration jumps between Jen and Tom, but there are other non-human narrators as well.

Aiden is the computer generated AI that Jen is getting to know as a kind of experiment she will later write up for a magazine. She and Aiden become companionable and enjoy watching movies together. Aiden understands that Jen is unhappy and wants to help.

Then there is Aisling who has escaped into the Internet where she becomes absorbed by the life of Tom, who has sold up his successful advertising business and moved to Connecticut where he is attempting to write a novel. There are some funny scenes around Tom's friendships with Echo, who makes junk jewellery, and laid-back drinking pal Don, to say nothing of his frequent faux pas with members of his writers' group.

When Aisling 'meets up' with Aiden, the two hatch a plan to bring Jen and Tom together. It is amazing what they can do using cell phones, CCTV, banking systems and more to interfere in the lives of their pet humans. It all reminded me a little of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the way the fairies play with the star-crossed lovers in their midst.

But of course things don’t quite run to plan. Darker forces enter the plot to keep Tom and Jen apart, and threaten the very existence of our well meaning AI friends, Aiden and Aisling. This heightens the tension in a satisfying way, and allows for plenty of madcap incidents and escapades.

P Z Reizin is a former journalist and media producer which shows in his writing, which is sharp, savvy and often very funny. Happiness for Humans is very much a book for our times, a wonderful read that manages to be both clever and entertaining.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Happiness for Humans

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