Monday 8 January 2024

Review by Paul Taylor-McCartney of "Autodrive" by Jordan Crandall


Jordan Crandall’s speculative fiction, Autodrive, is a thought-provoking and highly-experimental read that imagines a world in which a new form of super-intelligence has become so embedded in our lives it has taken centre stage and relegated humans to a peripheral role. This is not entirely new ground for the genre, of course, with evident nods being made to the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, whereby the human-machine interface has become so stifling and so much a part of everyday reality, it has transformed the very meaning of ‘collective consciousness.’ 

Structurally speaking, the novel is composed of a series of discrete, partially-connected chapters with each one focusing on a different character or scenario, onto which the author etches a fleeting scene or moment - often done with great humour and pathos - before moving onto the next vignette. This was initially disorienting, particularly as Crandall commits to a second experiment with language itself – creating a hybrid of human and machine expression. So jarring is the effect, it felt almost as if parts of the novel had been created by AI and then fashioned by the author to create a consistent voice across the whole piece. Stylistically, I was reminded of the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet, whose seminal work, Jealousy, is akin to a Cubist painting, with a single day repeated over and over from different angles. It is a testament to Crandall’s compositional skills (himself a renowned artist and media theorist) that he manages to evoke similar feelings to those I felt when encountering Robbe-Grillet for the first time all those years ago.

Autodrive is a short, intricate novel, and is for anyone who enjoys the challenge of drawing together the disparate parts an abstract, literary experiment - especially one that is centred on the highly topical theme of human over-reliance on AI and technology. Crandall’s true skill here is in employing art to help us make sense of this brave new world of technocracy, even if we are unable to navigate it without the consent of those machines we once created to serve us. 

About the reviewer
Dr. Paul Taylor-McCartney is a writer, researcher and lecturer living in Cornwall. His interests include dystopian studies, children’s literature and initial teacher education. His poetry, short fiction and academic articles have appeared in print and electronic form, including: Aesthetica, The Birmingham Journal of Language and Literature, Education in Practice & Writing in Practice (National Association of Writers in Education), Dyst: Literary Journal, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, The Crank and Bandit Fiction. His debut children’s novel, Sisters of the Pentacle, was recently published by Hermitage Press.

You can read more about Autodrive by Jordan Crandall on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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