Digital Leatherette (Codex Books)

By Jim Flint, 10 July 2000

The central conceit of Steve Beard’s Digital Leatherette is, roughly, to imagine how the global stockmarket crash of 2012 might look to an Artificial Intelligence like Gibson’s Wintermute, and juxtapose this with extracts from film script following Elizabethan alchemist John Dee and his assistant/lover Edward Kelly as they strangle, steal and stab their way around London attempting to invoke demons and conjure the philosopher’s stone. A seemingly impossible task, but Beard’s genius is to understand the links between alchemy, contemporary culture and technology, and to use that understanding to fashion not really a plot but a highly plausible near-future scenario in which the very historical mechanisms that enabled the modernisation of Britain also lay it open to an audacious hostile takeover by the burgeoning Chinese financial empire. Elliptical and obscure, certainly, but perhaps also the most perceptive English novel of 1999.

Jim Flint