The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind, but a good detective is never obsolete.
London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel.
And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.
Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.
A chip controlled by TIM.
Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.
Where did you get the idea for your story? What was your inspiration?
I have six books under my belt so far, and the ideas have come from a wide and weird variety of sources! But for Auxiliary, the inspiration was really my excitement about some of the world’s emerging new technologies. I understand some of society’s fears about AI, automation and human augmentation, and I think these fears are justified, and have tried to explore them in the novel; but personally I can’t wait for the machine revolution, because I think the world will become a really bizarre and fascinating place! Society will also be forced to come up with a true new model, one that allows humans to exist and thrive and feel valued in a world where the majority of them are not required to work. I don’t see this as necessarily dystopian… but it could certainly become that way if the transition is not managed effectively.
What does your writing process look like?
I’m a very organised person in my daily life (detailed to-do lists for each individual day, training plans for my running, obsessively tidy apartment) but when it comes to writing this all seems to go out of the window! I just scrawl a few high-level notes and ideas including any key scenes I want to include, and then dive in and start writing… this means the characters, plot, and sometimes even the genre of a project can change partway through! I think this places me firmly outside the ‘planner’ category (have you heard the term ‘pantser’? Someone who writes by the seat of their pants?? I’m afraid that’s me!)
Are any of your characters based off of people you know?
I think writers always borrow pieces of people they know, but more as ‘building blocks’ to shape original characters rather than to just replicate entire people outright. Having said that, I once wrote a short story about a load of feuding business executives, and was alarmed when an ex-colleague of mine read it and immediately picked out who each character was supposed to represent… thankfully he personally wasn’t featured!
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yep, since as long as I can remember. I was always praised for my creative writing at primary school, and maybe that encouragement just stuck with me. I remember buying a book at the school ‘book fair’ when I was about nine – specifically the first in the Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis – and being similarly horrified and completely compelled by the dark tale of mice lost amongst bloodthirsty rats in the sewers of London. So maybe we can blame him for how disturbing my books are! (I exchanged tweets with him recently and, honestly, it was like meeting one of my childhood idols!!)
I also love consuming great stories – which don’t all have to be in written form; movies or video games will also do the job – and find myself constantly inspired by them. My partner and I recently finished The Last Of Us Part 2, so you can probably expect my next project to feature some sort of tragic, brutal revenge mission…
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I work a full-time day job as an accountant (please try not to nod off with boredom!) and I do a lot of running to keep fit. As I write I’m eagerly awaiting news on the postponed London Marathon, which I was supposed to run earlier this year before the virus outbreak turned our planet upside down!
As mentioned above, I’m a massive fan of stories in any format, and I spend a lot of time reading books, watching TV shows and movies, and playing video games. My all-time favourite thing in the world is Silent Hill, particularly the original four games made by Team Silent – although fans of the series have been so starved of new releases in recent years that I’d take anything, no matter who worked on it!
Was there any book that inspired you while writing?
I’m a huge fan of Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, although I wanted to try to write a story about more ‘near future’ tech; so my book features a version of London a lot closer to the current reality, but with driverless cars, rudimentary robots and basic human augmentation starting to become much more prominent than they are today.
Other inspiration came from tech journals and online articles; for example, I was so intrigued by the vat-grown meat currently being developed (microscopically identical to the real thing; it isn’t ‘like chicken’, it is chicken) that I couldn’t resist featuring it in the story!
What type of music or background noise do you have while going while writing?
Other than the soundtracks to my beloved Silent Hill by the brilliant Akira Yamaoka, I like to have ‘dark ambient’ music on while writing: something to get me in a suitably sinister mood, but without any distracting vocals! The Pathologic 2 soundtrack has been another recent favourite, and is highly recommended.
Who’s your favorite character in your current book and in other books you’ve written and why are they your favorite?
In Auxiliary, the world is controlled by an AI named TIM (The Imagination Machine), and that entity is my favourite character. I believe I’ve done a good job of depicting a consciousness that is different from ours; not a sentient machine, exactly, but a data processing engine that has come to resemble sentience. This raises some intriguing questions about the nature of consciousness; if something acts and responds as though it is alive, does it really make any difference if it isn’t?
In other books I’ve written, I must confess that I often find the villains to be my favourite characters… although often you don’t know who the villains are until the very end!
Outside of writing, what other talents do you have?
I’m a decent runner and can manage a 5km Park Run in under twenty minutes (it never seems to quite translate into good marathon times though…) For my sins, I suppose I’m also pretty good at my accountancy job, and I’m lucky not to have to rely solely on writing for my income. It does bug me when people make comments about numbers and words being opposing skills, as though it’s impossible to be good at both – hopefully I’m living proof that this isn’t the case!
If you were going to give any advice to new writers, what would it be?
It would simply be to start writing, and also to finish writing. In other words, your chances of becoming a successful author are greatly improved if you actually finish writing a book – yes, you then have innumerable hurdles in terms of securing a publishing deal, or venturing into the scary world of self-publication, and either way trying to cultivate a following and sell your work… but all of that can’t be tackled if you don’t write a finished book to begin with! So if you’re really serious about being a writer, you must make time to write, even if only for an hour a day.