Book Review

Book Review: Normal

By Warren Ellis

Not My Edition:
Paperback, 148 pages
2016, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374534974

Adam Dearden’s job is to think professionally about the future – he studies geoengineering and smart cities and various ways to avoid “Our Coming Doom.” Like many who do this job, Adam has developed a case of “abyss gaze” and has had a break from reality. His employers have sent him off to Normal Head Oregon to a facility that will help him recuperate and hopefully get back into the business. But during his second day at the facility, another patient goes missing with only a massive hoard of bugs left in his bed and Adam finds himself trying to solve a mystery while attempting to hold his fragile mind together.

I picked this up because of the cover (illustrated by Pedro Sanches) and borrowed it because of the description and I’m pretty sure I missed most of what was going on, but it was fun to read so I don’t care.

I read this entirely in one sitting (stopping only briefly to make myself a coffee and a bagel) because the characters were so addicting and I had to know what was going on in this madhouse up in the woods. This book was not at all what I expected, but I’m not mad. I assumed the “abyss gaze” was a form of sentient AI that was somehow controlling people. Looking back, I’m not sure why I thought that, but, whatever. Really this is a book about foresight strategists who have gone mad from looking into the many infinitesimal details regarding how many problems we need to solve based on our way of life in order to avoid certain destruction.

On a high level, I understood the basic commentary about our society that this book dished out. In regards to the specific details and truly understanding what all these once-sane characters studied, I’m bloody clueless. Oh well, don’t care! Adam’s character was fun to follow and the people he met in Normal Head were interesting in so many ways.

This book was darkly amusing and made some interesting predictions about where our society (and those across the world) could end up and how we might end up developing and using our technology.

If you’re looking for a quick, semi-morose read full of technological predictions, crazy people and a little dose of mystery, I think you’ll enjoy Normal.

Warren’s website (with, like, the best author photo ever)

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