Did you know there are people who sit around and think about the future? I’m not necessarily talking about science-fiction authors. There are scientists, city planners, engineers, even folks called “futurists.” They look at the present and try to predict the possibilities of what will come next, where we’ll go as a planet and as a species.
How cool is that job?
Now, imagine if you became one of these folks, a futurist, and along with some other futurists, you got together and started talking about where we are and where we’re going, and decided that we were going, well, nowhere. No new innovations. No cool new gadgets. No amazing future. We’ve reached the limit. All the ideas have been tried. Used up. From now on, we coast.
What would you do?
Injection asks that very question.
From Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire, Injection is one long mood piece, and the mood is dark and weird. The characters are all broken in their own ways. We first meet Maria Kilbride, a scientist and member of such a think-tank as described above, a collection of geniuses brought together to think about the future. When we first meet Professor Kilbride, she is in a mental institution. “There’s not much left of Maria,” reads the opening line, and it’s true. She is a shell of who she once was, a woman driven now by guilt over her past actions more than anything else. And she doesn’t care if atoning for her sins ultimately destroys her, as long as she is able to end the madness she helped unleash upon the world.
Information on what that madness is and the impact of it all unfolds slowly and methodically over the course of the book. Eventually we meet the other members of Maria’s team, the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit, now spread across the world. Simeon Winters, strategist and spy. Vivek Headland, logician and ethicist. Brigid Roth, coder, hacker, and computer genius. Robin Moore, itinerant philosopher, esotericist, wanderer and wizard.
Together, they looked at the future and saw…nothing. A flat-line. And together, they decided to fix it by giving it something new—and old—something called the Injection.
This is a fascinating read. What happens when you mix old and new, magic and science? Is it really magic, or merely the beginnings of science that science hasn’t figured out yet? What this team creates is sort of like causing ripples to form along the surface of a calm lake, only the ripples cause ripples, too. And each time there’s a ripple, Maria finds herself having to figure out what it is, what caused it, and how to stop it from doing whatever it’s trying to do. That’s taking a toll on her mentally and physically, but she can’t stop. To stop is to have to face the guilt, and that would crush her.
It’s definitely a slow burn, with revelations coming slowly. That’s not to say the pace is off, because it’s not—the tension builds very nicely. But it’s not an action-packed kind of book. You aren’t going to find a lot of action panel to panel, though there are moments, intense moments, where the action ramps up suddenly and violently.
The art is stark and very bleak, but fits the story perfectly.
If you’re looking for an intense, moody exploration of how loud and strange the world could get, this is the one for you.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.