Augmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else. Ings takes the satire and mordant satirical view of J.G. Ballard and propels it into the 21st century.
Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.
A story about technology becomes a personal quest into a changed world and the pursuit of a secret from the past. A secret about a missing mother, a secret that could hide a murder. This is no dry analysis of how a technology might change us, it is a terrifying thriller, a picture of a dark tomorrow that is just around the corner
I’m going to cheat this time around and point you to two excellent reviews of Wolves. Together they sum up my feelings toward the novel which, in short, I found difficult to engage with, pointlessly misogynistic, poorly paced and structured and yet featuring some of the best writing I’ve read in some time. Those reviews are by Martin Lewis on the Strange Horizon website and one that featured on the Bookmunch website (it’s not clear who wrote it).
Lewis’ exploration of the books misogyny clarified an uneasiness I had with the main protagonist, Conrad:
This uncertain phasing between artist and text is most troubling when it comes to the representation of women. For the most part they are entirely absent but, when they do manage to press through onto the page, they are always seen through the filter of Conrad’s misogyny. This is first signaled when, amongst the beauty and power of the prose of the establishing scenes, we are confronted by a weird and unflattering parody of the Greenham Common protests. When Conrad goes to visit his mum at an anti-war camp, he discovers a pack of sub-human earth mothers:
There were women all around me, hidden, hissing at me. They were squatting in benders made from old tent canvas. They were crouching in teepees and yurts and behind screens of dead branches. They were hiding in nettle patches, hunkered down there like animals. (p. 55)
A decade later, after fucking Michel’s girlfriend the first time he meets her, he reflects: “She is the most beautiful thing I have taken to bed in my life” (p. 87). It is as concise a distillation of objectification and ownership as you are going to get. The only other time we see him have sex with a woman, she is a prostitute who uses Augmented Reality technology to render herself literally faceless. The scene ends with her banging on the toilet door, demanding that Conrad lets her in so she can have a shit. These encounters are all seen from Conrad’s perspective but they are all situations that Ings has engineered. They are also all too on the nose to be anything less than intentional but I can’t fathom what the intention is beyond the obvious.
While I think Bookmuch provides a perfect summary of the books overall strengths —
There are exhilarating set pieces – when Conrad is attempting to dispose of his mother’s body, for instance – and moments that feel true, that reveal Ings’ persuasive instinct for human behaviour – I’m thinking of the stormy night on which Conrad and Hanna come together, betrayal offset by the pleasures of sex; it is at these times when Ings is like no-one so much as Rupert Thomson.
— and faults:
In many ways, Wolves feels like a novel that is deafened on its own feedback. In some respects, it is just about the busiest novel I’ve ever read; in others, it seems stitched together from gaps and patches. There are too many words on some things and nowhere near enough on others. It feels like a book in which crucial chapters have been omitted and extended early drafts in need of pruning have been inserted.
I doubt I’d recommend Wolves. I think the novels problems outweigh the flashes of brilliance. But I’d certainly read another book by Ings.