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The Rig

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On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever. On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications. One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.

Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.

So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: The Rig.

618 pages, Paperback

First published May 8, 2018

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About the author

Roger Levy

11 books58 followers
I live in London. I'm married with two children. My third novel, Icarus, was shortlisted for BSFA best novel of 2007. My latest, The Rig, is published by Titan.
My other interests include photography and jazz. As I'm red/green colourblind, I especially love black & white photography, and jazzwise, I naturally like the blues. I especially love the cover of The Rig, not just because it’s a thing of beauty and perfectly fits the story, but because I think I can see the colours.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 178 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,084 reviews2,946 followers
October 31, 2021
4.0 Stars
This was such a unique epic science fiction adventure. This story managed to be both entertaining and also incredibly smart. I encourage readers to go in without knowing too much of the plot. If you are like me, you will immediately want to reread the entire thing as soon as you finish.

First I really enjoyed the narrative, told through multiple perspectives, which made the story feel very epic in scale. Eventually the various characters start to come together as the story progressed with some gripping twists and turns. At times the plot felt a bit unruly and could have been tightened up in places. Yet at the same time, the sprawling narrative made the story feel so wonderfully and expansive. The ending was strong which is particularly impressive for such a long, complicated story. I was impressed how the author pulled together all the threads into a satisfying conclusion. As soon as I finish, I wanted to start and read the entire story again (which is exactly what I did).

The author also incorporated a lot of futuristic slang in the story. Some people might find this annoying, but I honestly found it fun to interpret the meaning of these unusual terms and phrases. 

I also really enjoyed the author's imagination regarding the future of the internet. The scenes involving coding and hacking were particularly brilliant to read.

If you are looking for an engrossing piece of epic science fiction, then I would highly recommend giving this addictive, well plotted novel which was amazing worldbuilding.
Profile Image for Seregil of Rhiminee.
590 reviews40 followers
June 1, 2018
Originally published at Risingshadow.

Roger Levy's The Rig is one of the finest British science fiction novels ever published. This outstanding novel is way above average science fiction, because the story gradually develops from an intriguing premise into a fascinating tale filled with complexity, weirdness and thought-provoking elements that make readers hold their breath in wonder. This novel was very much to my liking, because it's boldly different and wholly original.

To be honest, this novel is truly impressive due to it being unlike any other modern science fiction novels. It's a satisfyingly complex exploration of humanity, immortality, religion, culture and social media from an insightful and slightly twisted perspective. It's a tour de force of powerful and immersive storytelling with strong prose.

The Rig is a deeply captivating and immersive reading experience, because it's in equal terms literary speculative fiction, noir fiction, mystery fiction and space opera with a touch of experimental science fiction. The unique combination of various genres makes for a highly enjoyable read. One might easily think that it's not possible to combine these genres, but the author has succeeded in it and has managed to create a novel that stands out.

I think it's good to mention that The Rig is not for readers who want instant gratification from their novels, because the author lets the story unfold at its own pace. It's not an easy novel, because it has been written for those who want to immerse themselves in a complex and intricate story (I'm sure that it will please quality-oriented readers who appreciate intricate storytelling).

Here's a bit of information the story and some of the characters:

- In this novel, humans have spread across the depths of space and people are connected by the social media platform AfterLife. All humans are implanted with neurids that capture their essences and allow for a resurrection at a later date. AfterLife unites the System in a profoundly effective way and has replaced religion. When AfterLife's subscribers vote in the Afterlife, the votes determine which subscribers have a chance at resurrection. Internet has developed into the Song.

- Alef Selsior lives on the planet Gehenna and becomes friends with the psychopathic Pellonhorc. Pellonhorc is the son of the crime lord Ethan Drame and is tight-lipped about his past. Alef's life is followed through SigEvs, which are "significant events" connected to the AfterLife.

- Tallen is an engineer who lives on the border planet Bleak. His life changes when he wakes up in a hospital. He decides to become a rig operator.

- Razer is a writer who is looking for stories on Bleak. She works for TruTales, which is one of the ParaSites of AfterLife. She comes upon a string of killings.

- Bale is a police officer on the planet Bleak. He has had a brief affair with Razer.

- The crime lord Ethan Drame and his rival Spetkin Ligate bring a strong touch of mafia-style elements and striking harshness to the story.

The characterisation is excellent and engaging. It was a pleasure to read about the characters, because the author takes his time to introduce their lives and tells of their feelings in an effective way. Each of the main characters is fully three-dimensional and realistic.

Alef is an especially intriguing protagonist, because he is a talented and intelligent boy. There's something about his character that reminds me of people who have Asperger's syndrome, because he thinks in numbers and has difficulties to empathise with others.

The friendship between Alef and Pellonhorc is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this novel, because the author writes well about their friendship and what happens between them. The arrival of Pellonhorc changes Alef's life in many ways. They're are an odd pair of boys whose friendship will change the System.

The worldbuilding is fascinating and very impressive. The author has created a stunning vision of humanity's future, because humans have moved to another solar system to live on terraformed planets due to a catastrophe. The System consists of seven major planets and a few minor ones.

Gehenna is a deeply religious planet where godly writ is followed by all of its inhabitants. The inhabitants are religious fundamentalists who believe in living pure lives. Bleak is a windswept planet where life is harsh. The landscape on Bleak is dominated by enormous rigs that are used to extract the planet's molten core. There's also an unsaid planet that is an enigma to all, because it has retreated into protected seclusion, and there's an asteroid known as Peco.

Roger Levy's cultural and social media critique is thrillingly sharp and stinging without being preaching, overbearing or annoying. In my opinion, he has managed to create a perfect vision of futuristic social media that has come to dominate people's lives. What makes his vision especially fascinating and frightening is that something similar could actually happen in real life due to many people spending too much time playing with social media and numbing their minds with mindless folly.

This novel has a few memorable scenes that are intriguingly unsettling. As an example I can mention that the fate of the Amadeus Arkestra at the beginning of this novel is disturbing and memorable. It perfectly demonstrates what religious frenzy can be at its most fervent.

I was surprised to find amusing and intelligent puns in this novel, because I didn't expect them. It's great that the author uses English and linguistics to his advantage and warps English words into new format to suit his needs. He uses - among other things - such words as "Babbel", "goddery", "husman", "screenery" and "puter", the meanings of which will open to readers during the story.

This novel raises many questions and makes readers think about what is going on and what will happen in the story. When the story begins, readers are gradually introduced to the characters and the places. After a while the various bits and pieces begin to fit together and readers will find themselves completely immersed by the story.

Roger Levy writes excellent prose, because his literary prose is beautiful, layered and memorable. Describing his prose is a bit difficult due to him having his own writing style, but his prose feels like a combination of Philip K. Dick, Christopher Priest, Nina Allan, Ren Warom, Gene Wolfe and David Mitchell. if you've ever read anything by these authors, you'll find yourself at home with the prose.

Roger Levy's The Rig is intense and thought-provoking speculative fiction at its utmost best and most imaginative. This novel has been written for thinking adults and to those who want depth from their science fiction novels. If you enjoy reading intelligent and original science fiction, this novel is mandatory reading material for you, because it's outstanding in every respect.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews990 followers
December 28, 2018
Blew my mind. Loved it. Completely bats*** crazy but utterly compelling. Full review to follow. I can't write one now I'm shattered.

*cue mad book buying spree of author's previous books*
Profile Image for David Harris.
872 reviews28 followers
May 28, 2018
I'm grateful to Titan for an advance copy of this book.

How to sum up The Rig? The Godfather in space, but more tricksy? A SPACE noir? The apotheosis of social media?

None of those are quite right - but they all have a bit of truth.

In the future, Earth is abandoned to ecological catastrophe and humanity has migrated to the System to live on terraformed worlds. It's a hard life (one of those planets is simply called 'Bleak' and it lives up to that) and a short one, fifty being a good age. Contradicting shiny expectations of the future, disease hasn't been conquered (several of the characters here suffer form incurable cancer) and corruption is widespread. Star Trek this isn't.

But with things so hard, and religion - 'goddery' - generally disdained, people need something to believe in and this role is taken by AfterLife, a system of preserving the near-dead in stasis until their condition is curable. Memories are harvested first, and when cures are found, public votes - based on the lives of the preserved - determine who will receive them.

Against this background, two very different boys meet on the sole remaining 'religious' planet, Gehenna, a place of harshly fundamentalist beliefs. (Actually there is another - referred to as 'the unsaid planet', a place so fiercely protective of its secrets that even to mention it risks death). Pellonhorc is cruel, mercurial and obsessive. Alef has difficulty empathising and thinks in numbers. (I sense the author has autism in mind but he doesn't say so). They seem an odd pairing but, forced together by events, go on to be friends - of a sort - and, as the book's blurb says, to remake the System. Certainly their relationship is at the centre of this book. It's complex, incomplete and at times baffling, but drives both men.

The book follows Alef's life forwards through 'SigEvs' - significant events - which are supposed to be what the voter will use to decide whether a subject is to be cured or left in suspended animation. At the same time, we see a separate story unfold, told from various points of view in the hardscrabble town of Lookout, on the planet Bleak. The main characters here are a policeman (Bale) a journalist/ writer (Razer) and an engineer (Tallen).

Bale has been suspended from duty after joining the pursuit of a serial killer while off duty, and while drunk. Razor has been sent by her AI, Cynth, to record Bale's 'TruTale'. And Tallen, well - Tallen wakes up one day in hospital and is never the same again.

This part of the story is twisty and - with its grim streets, hard bitten cops and air of sleaze and corruption - supplies the nourish tinge to the book, as Bale and then Razer attempt to work our what's been going on. Some kind of cover up, seemingly - but of what? And why? Whatever it is, it's worth killing for and everyone who gets near it seems to be in danger. There's a real atmosphere of menave here and a distinct sense that nothing is what it seems: trust nobody, not even yourself.

It's a violent book, with plenty of death. Some of this is foreseen (all that disease) or foreseeable (given all that gangsterism), some of it comes out of the blue (despite the efforts of the Lookout policy). There's no saying who will be next, and doubly so once the two parts of the story emerges, which only happens slowly. Indeed it's not till the last hundred pages or so that it all really begins to fit together. If you love a slowly unfolding, satisfying mystery then you'll enjoy this, likewise if you're a fan of convincing, well thought out world building. On the evidence of this book, Levy excels in creating beautiful, and believable, worlds and it helps that this is a longish book, so he can take his time to build up the atmosphere, whether of the seedy town with its dives and pre fab housing, the underground racetracks through which hurricane winds blow, or the heaving seas containing the rigs which are the key to Bleak's economy. He warps language itself to indicate the alienness of the System, even if it is peopled by humans - so, we have, as well as 'doddery', 'putter' and 'screenery' and a slew of tongue twisting character names (Pelonhorc, but also Pireve, Dixemexid, Maerleyand and so on).

Overall a weirdly thrilling slice of SF, with a great deal of human reality to it and some great characters. One not to miss.
1,127 reviews2 followers
October 6, 2018
The opening chapter of this book was amazing and would have made a stunning short story on its own. Then the rest of the book happened. It is clear that that Levy is attempting to write a story full of big ideas which he mostly succeeds at doing. Unfortunately the story itself is plodding, juvenile and populated with characters that are largely unsympathetic. By half way through the book, I was bored and ended up reading two other books before finely finishing this one up. Honestly, I'm not sure that it was worth the effort to do so. Having a whole lot of stupid, made up words for common things like "putery" for computer, "visky" for whisky, "screenery" for screen, "chittlechattle" for chit chat and "godery" for religion that were used relentlessly didn't help matters.

The world created by Levy is hard to swallow. On the one hand we have a space faring culture with faster than light speed travel, the ability to put humans into stasis indefinitely and something called "doubling" which involves seizing control of someone else's body and mind. On the other hand we have an inability to control cancer that leaves the average human's life expectancy across all planets at 50 (apparently nano biotech which is being researched today isn't even an idea), computers that sound like they were manufactured during the 20th century, and humans doing incredibly dangerous jobs because apparently robots aren't up to the task.

The concept of Afterlife, in which members vote on who should be brought back from the brink of death when a cure for their ailment is discovered is intriguing. However the world that surrounds this story is less so. At the heart of the story are two criminals who are locked into an almost cartoonish Spy v. Spy rivalry. We are given to believe that a confederation composed of some fairly large (but unspecified) number of planets is effectively ruled by just two self-made men who through dint of their own cunning largely control the entire universe's economy. This is flat out ridiculous on its face. Little detail is given how they manage this, except some vague examples of mathematical models and ruthless actions. Game of Thrones this ain't.

One of the central characters is Alef (Oh the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, deep man) a mathematical genus and emotional cripple who is largely responsible for the success one of the evil guy's empire. Like most of the characters, he is totally unsympathetic. Apparently in possession of zero agency, Alef mechanically assists Dr. Evil number 1 with his sociopathic methods of expanding his empire. Not once does he ever consider leaving. I think we are expected to feel sorry for his situation, but I didn't. This was particularly problematic because the final big reveal turns upon his actions.

I found myself more interested in the murder mystery that revolved around a reporter, a mechanic and police officer. Sadly, the resolution to their story was a big fat nothing burger. The convoluted series of events that are detailed turned out to be entirely beside the point, even though the author seems to think they were all part of some diabolical plan. Spoiler:

Ultimately The Rig turned out to be a gimmick. Not only was it not needed but it was flat out non-nonsensical. It is the kind of convoluted idea that a bunch of geeky high school kids would come up with as amazingly cool, while everyone who is not them would just roll their eyes. Spoiler:
6 reviews
June 7, 2018
"puter" & "putering" instead of computer & computing? And i'm out!
Profile Image for Sussu | Kirjakauris.
791 reviews30 followers
February 9, 2019
4,8 stars

This is the best book I've read so far in 2019 and I have no idea how I'm supposed to write a review for it. Maybe I'll take the coward's way out and go with a simple list:

- I loved the writing, which was vivid yet easy to read
- The book throws you into the deep end and expects you to either sink or swim with absolutely no flotation devices
- The world is imaginative, original, and a little bit scifi noir (is that a thing?)
- The characters feel real, even though most of them are extreme and implausible
- No one's exactly good in this book, but they still have you on their side
- I had my mind screech to a halt on several occasions when the plot did not go at all where I expected it to
- Yet by the end there was a big plot twist that I did catch on to, and thus didn't have the desired shock value
- The story was so incredibly well constructed from beginning to end, that I feel like this will be a definite re-read in the future

What I don't understand is how this book isn't more popular. A definite hidden gem.
Profile Image for Liam Ward.
Author 4 books7 followers
April 9, 2020
I can see why this book was abandoned by one publisher and rebranded and sold at a lower price by another: it’s dead in the water.
I liked the writing style, I loved the font, I was interested in the story to begin with but it became an enormous flop.

- There was almost no description of anything. The author gave a basic and brief summary of where they were and what they were doing but trying to summon a world from this was like slamming into a thick sheet of ice and getting nowhere. There was no life in this world, nothing. I couldn’t picture anything and when a glimmer of description appeared it was about a computer that had no relevance to the story.
- It seems the author quit writing this book for a few months about 2/3 of the way through and picked it up again to ramble off a bunch of quick plot twists, increase the pace ten fold and then drag out to truly snoresville ending for another hundred pages.
- Overlong and I was forcing myself to finish. At over 600 pages it’s a commitment I don’t recommend you make.
- I did like some of the characters, but not enough to actually care about them.
- Razer’s storyline is a waste of time. Tallen’s is a waste of time. Bale’s is a waste of time. The only storyline that even remotely matters is Alef’s and even then it doesn’t need to be this long.
- Alef clearly has Asperger’s and it’s well covered in this book, so congratulations for getting something right.
- I think the author wanted this book to feel logical and intelligent. It wasn’t. It was actually rammed with emotion and talk of emotion and the logic was just written on paper and seemed forced.
- It skims the surface of every character and event. No depth at all.
- Written in very simplistic prose. No fluff, no flowers and absolutely no description what so ever. I still can’t picture a single character because there’s no description of any of them. It’s important to build character image so readers can connect to the book.
- ‘malfed’ instead of malfunctioned. ‘Puter/putering’ instead of computer and computing. Cringe.
- Plenty of this book is incomprehensible, unnecessary and extremely boring with just enough glimmer of interest to make you force yourself to the end.

It’s not a horrendously bad book, but it’s not something you should pick up looking for a fantastic and fun sci-fi. Don’t bother with the back cover, it’s borderline irrelevant to the actual story. It’s more of a religious, mental illness sci-fi than anything else.
Profile Image for Susy.
743 reviews137 followers
July 20, 2021
3.5 stars
The story starts very abrupt and only very slowly do you get information about the world(s), what has happened, how things work. At first that leads to confusion but as in the end everything comes together, everything becomes clear. Some details didn't make sense, some came across as mistakes , others just didn't make sense to me
All in all I liked it well enough, it had enough tension, the characters were all very different and though the end at the rig raised some questions in my head, I liked that too, though not enough to round my rating up to 4 stars.

“She often wondered what life might have been like back on earth, when you could expect to live beyond 50 and to enjoy fair health for much of that time. Might they have guessed at such a future as this? The irreversible radiation sicknesses, the autoimmune diseases, the constantly shifting metaviruses, neocancers and reaction-toxicities? Back on earth they had imagined that the future would bring cure for everything, that eventually technology would outstrip nature. How wrong we always were.”

“People believed almost anything I threw out as long as I invented data and attached a few stolen and adapted personal experiences. The more medics denounced and denied a thing, factually and conclusively, the more they were accused of suppressing the truth.”

“There’s no sadness without memory.”

“It was the sharing of experience that mattered. The reaching out and the receiving, the telling and the listening.”
Profile Image for Rhiannon Mills.
Author 6 books27 followers
May 8, 2018
Strange Horizons has called Roger Levy the ‘heir to Philip K. Dick.’ That’s a pretty tall order for an author to live up to, eh? I typically dislike when two authors are compared to each other because I rarely see enough similarities to even recognize that a comparison has been made. Well, as it happens, it’s not far from truth. I found Roger Levy’s writing style to be refreshingly gloomy, blunt, and to the point. I believe the comparison to Philip K. Dick to be right on the money.
The premise of the story is unique and I imagine that’s one reason why Levy has been compared to Philip K. Dick. Roger Levy spins his tale with a handle on the English language unlike most. He creates characters that are both believable and unique, but the ways in which he presents their stories is never lacking any of the elements required for entertainment and thought. If there are any science fiction book clubs looking for a good read this week, I think The Rig is worthy of a mention, but with a warning–You will ask yourself an awful lot of questions when you read this book and some of them may have answers you’re not ready for. But, be that as it may, read it anyway.
Without hitting my blog readers with a ton of spoilers, I will say that I can confidently give my recommendation to The Rig and I look forward to finding more titles from Roger Levy in the future.
Profile Image for Deb.
276 reviews27 followers
May 16, 2018
Before I start my review, let me note that I received an uncorrected bound proof of this book from Titan Books. However, all opinions contained herein are my own.

At 615 pages, this is not a book to dive into lightly. While I occasionally found myself "rooting for" one or another of the characters, all are pretty flawed. None are wholly likable, but there are books where that happens, and it's never been a deal-breaker for me.

The book starts slowly, establishing the friendship between the two main characters, and the world they are living on. It's not a pretty society, either, because it follows a pretty rigid interpretation of the Bible. At any rate, the story follows the two characters and several other plotlines. One thing that kept me reading, in fact, was waiting to see how Mr. Levy was going to tie all the different stories together. And, when he finally did so, it was only partially in ways I had expected.

For all that, the book is well-written, and once I had gotten past the slowness at the beginning, I didn't want to put it down - not for dinner, not for some work I needed to do, not even to go to bed.

It's doesn't fit neatly into military SF or horror, but I think it will appeal to readers thereof. It was definitely worth the time and effort to read it.
Profile Image for Pentimenti.
65 reviews
June 5, 2018
I haven't seen any spoiler-laden reviews for this book yet, and I'm conflicted about specific plot points, so I'm going to be that person. XD


The Rig started off great. I really enjoyed the development of the two story arcs in the first two-thirds of the book. I loved Alef, the focal character of the novel. His traits and motivations are well-developed. The reader gets a solid sense of how his life on Gehenna affected him from the very first scene (which is shocking and terrifying), and how he struggles between the pull of science and religion. The mystery on Bleak was also engaging, and Bale and Razer are likeable characters.

Here's my problem with the book: the more it goes on, the more predictable it gets.

Pellonhorc, Alef's childhood friend, is presented as aggressive and power-hungry from the get-go. Granted, his father is an abusive, trigger-happy crime lord, but that doesn't guarantee Pellonhorc would turn out the same way. In fact, his mother, who is his primary caregiver, seems to be kind. So what happens?

Well, if you thought anyone besides Pellonhorc would become the main villain of the novel, you're quickly proven wrong. He is neatly set up to become the main villain after the showdown between his father and an enemy crime lord, which Pellonhorc carefully engineers so that he gets the upper hand over both of them. Surprise! Except it isn't a surprise; it's the same reused trope of the magnificent bastard, which we see throughout fiction. Orson Scott Card did it better in the Ender's Shadow series, with the character of Achilles Flandres. Tolkien did it first in the Lord of the Rings, with Sauron. At this point, Pellonhorc's character arc is predictable. His only redeeming value is his loyalty to Alef, which quickly turns into his willingness to keep Alef alive for his own purposes. Bottom line, I anticipated a more nuanced character.

Even worse is Pireve, Alef's wife. We don't know much about her, besides the fact that she seems to be nice and strives to understand Alef, who loves her dearly. Okay, fine. She doesn't need to be well-developed, because she isn't a major character. Except that in the last third of the book, the author tries to turn her into one. Pellonhorc uses her life as a bargaining tool to keep Alec involved in his crazy machinations. Everything Alef does, he does for Pireve. At that point, the reader wants to know more about her. Who is Pireve? Why, exactly, does Alef like her? Well, It turns out she's been Pellonhorc's lover all along, and the child she's pregnant with might not even be Alef's. (Called it!) In the end, neither Alef nor the reader know anything concrete about Pireve, besides the fact that she cares about Pellonhorc enough to trick another man into loving and marrying her.

This is extremely frustrating, because Pellonhorc becomes more evil as the story goes on, so it's hard to understand why Pireve would even like him. Moreover, all of Alef's love turns out to be unfounded – a love that was never explained in the first place. The author may be trying to make a point about how nobody can ever really understand someone else, but it falls flat.

I may add to this review later.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Doreen.
2,452 reviews61 followers
May 12, 2018
It's been quite a while since I've taken this long to read a book (four days, to be precise, which is a total humble brag given that I've read 72 books in the past 4 months and 11 days.) Granted, The Rig clocks in at over 600 pages and since I had it in paperback -- the better to enjoy that gorgeous cover -- it was harder to binge read in the dark as I do with ebooks on my Paperwhite before I go to sleep. But ooh, what an intelligent, layered 600+ pages! Imagine a far future where humanity has abandoned a dying Earth to colonize a system of planets far less conducive to human health and happiness. This is the setting for the interwoven tales of two men who met as boys on the fanatically religious planet of Gehenna, and a plucky writer sent to interview two other men, a cop and an engineer, on the appropriately named planet of Bleak. As we follow these narratives, pieces slowly shift and slide into place to present us with an overarching picture that is as breathtaking as that cover. Some of these pieces are more obvious than others (Pireve, the origin of the cancer) but many more are unexpected enough to make even the most seen-it-all readers stop and say "Oh."

At its heart, The Rig is a novel about faith that, in my opinion, does a much better job of looking for the divine in the stars of the future than most of the overtly religious science fiction out there. I really, really loved the ending even as I wanted much, much more from the climactic scene on the titular Rig. A lot of that has to do with The Question, which I think is at once an elegant concept and one that needs more explaining than Roger Levy gives us in this novel. Granted, it is entirely likely that this was done on purpose, to provoke readers to form their own thoughts regarding the issue (and if I get a chance to interview the author, hopefully, we'll find out more!) But don't mistake The Rig for a pious novel. The social media system known as AfterLife, which gives its subscribers a shot at resurrection via the votes of other subscribers, is presented as a completely viable alternative to goddery, as the holdover religions from Earth are known. The Rig thoughtfully explores the need for and forms of faith through fiction that is part space opera, part noir novel (I'm still mad about Delta) without ever sermonizing. It raises terrific questions of power, technology and omniscience in an atmosphere as perpetually unstable as a rig floating on a turbulent sea.

I also loved Mr Levy's way with linguistic evolution, with the aforementioned "goddery" as just one example. "Putery" was the one awkward extrapolation, I felt, but I really appreciated the use of words like "threedy" and "flycykcle" that perfectly captured the way technological advances come to be just another part of language. And, of course, I am a sucker for a good, intelligent pun, with which The Rig is perfectly peppered.

Recommended if you want thought-provoking scifi that acknowledges human frailty while celebrating our resilience. I do hope he writes more on The Question (or perhaps the subject is explored in his previous books and I should go read those!)
Profile Image for Damon Rycroft.
16 reviews
November 26, 2018
It’s overly convoluted and none of the characters are interesting enough that you care about them, the twist is boring and the ending seems like a rushed scrabble to put everything together without it making much sense character wise
1 review
August 10, 2021
Abysmal. I made a Goodreads account specifically to note how bad this book is. If this is the best British scifi has to offer then no wonder the genre is floundering.

The prose is dull and lifeless, falling into the scifi trappings of not describing your characters or world but instead mashing up words, as well as making up words for things that we already have names for (puter for computer, visky for whisky, pornoverse for porn sites, root as slang for male genitalia). The names for world-specific concepts are just as much on-your-face, with AfterLife, ParaSytes, Gehenna & JerSalem being about the subtlety you can expect here.

The so-called social commentary is shallow and weak. There is a connection made between social media and God, which, though not particularly deep, could have been for an interesting comparison if it wasn't surrounded by the rest of the book.

Many of the scenes are unnecessary or pointless, and the book suffers for it (this is not to say that a slow pace is inherently bad, but this book does not execute it well). Despite being 600 pages long, not much happens. The two plots are a murder mystery which takes place over a couple of days, and a coming of age story which ends up with managing a crime syndicate (and somehow, miraculously even, both of them end up being shallow and boring). Any twists or deceptions have little weight to them. The so-called connection between the storylines is nothing special, as the murder mystery plot has so little substance behind it, it must connect to the other (and there are only two major plots happening, so combining them is no hard task). The plot threads are not so much intertwined as they are smashed together during the last 50 pages.

The characters are one-note without any depth to them and all of them painfully passive. The female characters are particularly susceptible to bad writing, being made up of dead mothers, untrustworthy partners, or love interests. It should be noted that in the first scene of the first female POV character, it's only 3 pages before we get details of her sex life with one of the other male POV characters (the other female POV character is, of course, an ex for the same male POV character mentioned before, has about 5 scenes within all those 600 pages).

The worst of them has to be Alef. Poor Alef. Though not explicitly said, Alef is written as autistic (and as you can judge from other reviews here, readers get such an impression). This story like so many others, follows the Numbers-Obsessed Autistic Stock Character trope that is apparently the only way neurotypicals can write about autistic people. With that in mind, Alef is such a genius with math and stats ever since he was and I quote "still bellied in my mother", surpassing even his father at when he was very young in cryptography because He Is Just That Good. Another choice quote is "about to go full statistic on her" which is in relation to a love interest who lists how he would like to change, with half of such suggestions being "be more polite" and the other half being a "do not act autistic even in totally harmless personal ways". There is an argument to be made that her ableism hinted at her eventual betrayal, however even Alef's narration seems to agree w her suggestions to change his behavior and making him more 'normal'.

Good or respectful representation this is not.

To give you an examle of all the above, in one scene, Alef's wife (who gets no character development besides being a gf and pregnant) was apparently the mistress of Pellonhorc, Alef's abusive friend/criminal boss, and of course, she gets killed but it is her unborn child the characters fret over.

I will not bring up the sex scenes to spare everyone's sanity.

There are other things I want to mention, other issues with the rest of the characters (Bale is oh-so-tortured and run-of-the-mill unconventional cop, Pellonhorc is cartoonishly evil), their lacking interpersonal relationships, and, despite claims of a unique world, the clichéd plot threads, but I want to keep this within a reasonable length.

Needless to say, I do not recommend reading this book, and I certainly will not read anything else by the author.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Matt.
247 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2019
An epic standalone sci fi. If you are expecting fast paced and action packed think again. This story has a meandering pace that slowly builds to an eye opening, mind bending twist. This book is all about the build up, character building and world building. Based in a future where the earth is longer habitable and has to spread to new planets which have been terraformed.

There are a lot of different themes and ideas going on in this, including the idea of religion or the lack of it, social media and the Internet (called the Song and AfterLife respectively), crime, noir mystery and gangsters, and mortality/immortality.
We follow very different plots and storylines that seem completely unrelated. There is Alef and Pellonhorc childhood friends on the religious planet of Gehenna and how their lives are turned upside down by a criminal plot. There is the noir cop mystery involving Bale. The blogger come journalist of Razer. The engineer that is Tallen. All taking place on the appropriately named planet of Bleak.

I can't say much more about the plot without potentially spoiling the book, but the build-up and different storylines are worth the wait and have a decent pay off.

The writing style of this book made it easy reading and interesting with the author coming up with his own terms such as putery, babble, goddery.

I would highly recommend this if you want a thought provoking sci fi that doesn't hit you over the head with the science, and also takes its time to tell you it's story. I'll be looking out for more books by this author, I hope to see more stories told in the universe he has built here.
Profile Image for Jen.
388 reviews
May 5, 2018
This was a.....complex book. There was so much going on so much of the time that I often felt as if I were missing something. I could see a way in which the two storylines could converge and they did, in the end converge quite nicely but I was often unsure as to whether or not I was correct in what I was thinking. Not that this is a bad thing. I enjoy books that can keep me guessing and this one definitely did with the way it kept switching between the murder mystery on a far off space rock planet and the mafia-type storyline featuring two young men. This is science-fiction but it's not really a sci-fi story. More of a mystery/thriller with sci-fi elements. I would have enjoyed more information about the whole voting to choose who gets the cure that has been recently developed but since that was really just back-story, I understand why the focus wasn't on that. Overall this was a very enjoyable book but it's not a quick, easy read -- you have to be willing to sink into the story and wait for it to develop.
Profile Image for Craig Gordon.
Author 12 books103 followers
October 2, 2018
I'd never heard of Roger Levy before but I was drawn in by the captivating cover and the intriguing blurb. And fortunately the story itself was as spectacular as the artwork.

Levy plays a masterstroke in delivering a thoroughly engrossing space opera that avoids any mention of spaceships and instead concentrates on the interplay between powerful families.
The story unravels in such a way that maintains a momentum of raising and answering questions about what is going on that kept me tapping away to find out what happened next. Some of these span the entire narrative, whilst others are resolved more quickly only to throw up additional plot points that set up even more intrigue.
It's only failing is the inability to fully pay off the breathless charge through to its denouement. But this is a small sacrifice next to the enjoyment that the story itself brings.

It's definitely one I'd be interested in reading again and I'm now looking forward to checking out some of Levy's back catalogue.
Profile Image for Andrew.
515 reviews4 followers
November 24, 2018
Liked but didn't love. A lot of the elements of this book are ones I'm really keen on: all of the sci-fi tropes flashed around, the interleaving narrative strands etc etc. But the big failing of the book (in my opinion) is the Rig itself. The central image which the book takes its title and cover image from simply doesn't really make much sense. Why on earth would you throw suspended animation caskets of nearly dead people into the sea (which has some strange properties never fully explored) like that and have rigs to process them? I couldn't wrap my head around why the rigs were really a thing. It felt like the author had a great idea for a central talismanic structure but couldn't really justify its inclusion yet included it anyway. Oh and I'm not convinced it needed to be 600 pages long, but then I think that about a lot of 600 page long books.
Profile Image for Jackie.
167 reviews
October 30, 2018
This is such a clever book. Almost impossible to write anything without spoilers but I thoroughly recommend it. Science fiction is not my normal genre but this has brilliant characters and such a twisting plot that all comes together in a way that was perfectly plotted and not at all obvious. Maybe I should read more science fiction.
Profile Image for Bob.
235 reviews3 followers
August 6, 2018
A very solid four - probably four and a half... Epochal in nature, a multi-threaded storyline that pulls you in. Excellent writing, engaging and exciting with some shocks along the way (OK, I guessed a few of them...) Will certainly search out more books by Roger Levy!
Profile Image for Kirsty Bassett.
139 reviews3 followers
August 6, 2018
DNF at p195 - kept thinking it woule get better, and wondering how the two separate storylines would merge kept me going that far. But nothings happened and im stil baffled as to what is going on.

Not worth the read and i just dont get how this has got so many good reviews
Profile Image for CuriousHerring.
81 reviews7 followers
January 29, 2023
"Space had its stars but the sea had nothing at all"

I absolutely love this book. It's not often that I pick up a sci-fi, but I'm so so glad that I picked this one up. It was beautifully expansive and filled with a vast range of loveable characters and futuristic worlds which just left me wanting more.

It's complexity is written extremely well, and I loved how this book made me feel a part of the journey. Throughout, it has an undertone of trying to decide between right and wrong. Again, books which touch on religion normally aren't my jam, but some how this just worked for me.

Though this book is a stunningly unique tale, I would have loved for it to delve more into the 'AfterLife' concept. When I picked this book up I think I expected it to have more of a Black Mirror vibe. But although it was not what I expected, it was still an incredible story!
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,630 reviews325 followers
Want to read
May 28, 2018
Paul di Filippo recommends it, at Locus:

"the white-hot core of the book is a kind of Jacobean revenge drama played out between Drame and Ligate, along with a metaphysical Faustian quest undertaken by Pellonhorc, for which he brutally enlists Alef and his skills. The emotional wattage of this electrifying melodrama is very intense, especially in the first-person narrative by Alef. The portrait that develops of this almost Ender’s Game-style hero–a youth whose unnatural talents skew his whole life–is highly affecting and accomplished and, ultimately, heart-breaking.

And so this tale rockets along, never predictable (several last-minute revelations pull out all the Van Vogtian stops), always engrossing, a blend of Cordwainer Smith estrangement, Barrington Bayley pure weirdness, and Alejandro Jodorowsky cultural critique. You will want more from Levy at the close of this volume, and be down on your knees praying you don’t have to wait another dozen years!"
Profile Image for Marc Jentzsch.
217 reviews2 followers
February 12, 2019
As an exercise in social deconstruction, The Rig works.

It is hard to talk about The Rig with any amount of detail that does not function as a spoiler. Even its themes are there to be sussed out by the reader, though it does not go to great lengths to hide them. But it is an open question, like a deconstructive dream given narrative structure and populated with characters, a question that we all ask ourselves in one form or other. It looks deep into our fears and anxieties and shows us that there is an opiate for every creed.

It does, however, fail on two fronts for me.

First, it replaces several common and easily understood terms with words that might be uttered by a toddler. These words are used without a conspiratorial wink leading me to think that they are more than just a shot at character or flavor for the world, but some sort of meta-commentary. I am not sure, but they served mostly to jar me when I read them, to cause me to wonder what the hell Levy was after EVERY SINGLE TIME I read them.

Perhaps more importantly, one of the protagonists is almost exclusively a passive character, his moment of action coming so near the end of the book as to render it anticlimactic (though not the end of the narrative as the author plays with timelines - this is obvious almost from the beginning). He is a passenger in a way that is phenomenally unsatisfying. While I enjoyed his voice, his utter lack of even a desire to take control of events around him was frustrating. His reactive passivity was perhaps too close to home.

We all like to think of ourselves as active participants in the events of our lives, but I suspect that for most, this confused chaos that must be adapted to is the life that is lived in contrast to the life that is imagined.

The Rig is clear-eyed and fun to read, but it is more philosophical fiction than science fiction. Some have compared it and the author to Phillip K. Dick. Having read enough PKD to never want to read anything by the man again, I don't see that. Rather, I find the closest analog to be Neal Stephenson and his ability to tackle big ideas and concepts and turn them into mind-boggling fiction that never quite explains itself and leaves the reader to sort it all out, to sift the ideas and events and characters and find the shiny bits in the hopes it will tell them what they just experienced. PKD would just leave you thinking you'd have been better off smoking something and fretting about men in black suits.
Profile Image for K..
3,667 reviews1,006 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
December 24, 2019
Trigger warnings: death, animal death, violence, murder, blood, vomit.

DNF on page 194.

There are a lot of rave reviews for this book, and I do not understand a single solitary one of them. Because this book was indescribably dry and dull. There was, like, one storyline that I gave half a fuck about and the rest of them I found myself skimming through in order to get back to that one.

Maybe if it wasn't the end of the year and I weren't trying to finish goals that I've set for myself, I'd have persevered. But it is and I am and also I just don't care tbh.
Profile Image for Jacob Martin.
31 reviews2 followers
February 11, 2023

I bounced between 3 and 4 stars for this book a lot while reading it, favoring one narrative over the other as they were entirely separate stories until about the last 100 pages of this 600 page novel. I definitely preferred Alefs biographical crime thriller half of the story in comparison to the multi-narrative jumble of Bleak storylines and characters. I found Alefs story to hold the real weight and drive of the narrative until its convergence with the modern day, where you're left grasping for a satisfying conclusion as everything thats spent 550+ pages building up comes to a pretty unfulfilling conclusion. I think both of these stories could of really flourished and had room to settle into their flow and create purposeful endings as a sequel/prequel set up. Giving the stories their own time to resonate and create impact than jump from moment to moment. A good example of this world/narrative building would be The Wool Trilogy. Wool sets up the world that we're going to be spending ola significant amount of time in, The pre-sequal Shift elaborates on the deeper questions and lore of what and why things are happening, and the concluding Dust finally merges the two worlds of creator and players in the greater narrative.
Overall still an enjoyable story that does leave room for a lot more to tell in its world of The System, but hopefully each story would have time to become its own.
Profile Image for Liv Sol Lilith Oschlag.
85 reviews4 followers
September 22, 2018
The strongest points of this book for me are the sequences where some sentences turn incredibly dark or twisted, and you never really see them coming. Those twists mostly had to do with worldbuilding, details about the state and history of the 'verse that added depth and tragedy to the overall themes and story. I really liked that. I'm not 100% happy with the way the ending played out and how it was written, which is why this is "only" a 4 star read for me, but it was still reading time well spent. My gripes are minor. It's also very refreshing to read a standalone novel for once, whereas I usually gravitate toward trilogies or longer series.
143 reviews2 followers
November 1, 2022
It has been a long, long time since I read a sprawling SF epic. I sometimes have trouble with this genre, but I loved this book.

The multiple POVs worked for me, and I really liked the way the characters were written, which I think is rare in this type of sprawling space-operaish genre.

The were some things I missed and that I will probably pick up on when I reread the book, such as the details about what happened on earth that caused people to flee, but the descriptions of the future of the internet were great, and I really liked the future slang that Levy included.

While there were some truly bad characters, most were combinations of the good and the bad, as we all are.

Some reviews have said this was a slow paced book. I disagree. It is long, but I thought it was very fast paced.
All in all, a very enjoyable book. However, the body count was incredibly high.
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