BOOK REVIEW: “Ctrl Alt Revolt!” by Nick Cole

Monday , 15, February 2016 11 Comments

This book is the talk of the town right now, but before we get into it I’d like to clear one thing up. The narrative that’s emerged this past week is of a plucky writer running afoul of an editor just because of a blatantly pro-life message in the opening chapter. Now, a lot of people commenting on this are just going by the sample chapter, unpacking it a little, and then saying that what he did there was no big deal and nothing to freak out over. And that’s fine. But the thing is, if that editor really was a Social Justice Warrior, then she would easily have found something to offend her in almost every chapter.

You see… Nick Cole’s near future setting  is one where Social Justice has run amok– and he never passes up an opportunity to get a few punches in against the cry-bully set!

Here’s just one example:

The crew of Intrepid later discovered the Lost City of the Ancient Starfarers in the episode titled “After Tomorrow.” That one wan an Emmy InstaPoll, and Jason got to make out with Luria, a psionic ruby-skinned near-naked chick who’d been nominated for an Oscar in the important film Dad’s Dress, about a young conservative businesswoman who must bury her transvestite father in one of her own dresses. Her prom dress, in fact, as per his last wish. In the end, she realizes her politics and faith are all appropriately wrong as she weeps at the funeral and tells the audience, “Dammit, I loved my weird dad. I loved him!”

And here’s another for good measure:

The YURI bots had been produced in bulk and had been languishing in a customs warehouse in Singapore for more than a year and a half before SILAS anonymously bought them, after it was discovered that one of the U.N. colony planners had made some disparaging remarks about the trans-person leader of Moon Base Prime’s construction team. The whole project had been iced in lieu of rigorous disciplinary action and mandatory sensitivity training. This was absolutely necessary before mankind could “sully the moon with transphobic behavior patterns,” as one UN spokesperson had bravely put it.

The overall effect here is like being able to turn something along the lines of Larry Correia’s fisk posts into novel form. But it goes deeper than that. All of the major characters here are inherently, fundamentally right wing. For instance, the “handi-capable” character wants nothing more than to have a real job so that she won’t have to take handouts from the government anymore. The Captain Kirk stand-in gives a Shakespearean monologue where he decries “this week’s outrage at last week’s Hitler of the moment.” And even though the video game developer that has been raised from birth to believe that the worst thing you can possibly do is offend somebody, he has stream of conscious reflections like this:

Fish raced through the crowd, ignoring tired conversations about party drug trips and tirades on climate change and the scourge of racism and the never-ending battle to end it. Long ago, he’d noted that most of these conversations were actually no longer an exchange of ideas. Fish’s opinion, which he wisely kept to himself, was that more often than not, these conversations were mere mutual affirmations of the same belief. Mantras repeated within an echo chamber to be repeated again and again. No one argued anymore. No one disagreed. Opinions contrary to the accepted were considered ignorant and gauche and, by the wise, dangerous to your career and livelihood. It was, in Fish’s most cynical moments of introspection, more a playlet staged by a cult that merely wanted to hear its own opinions justified ad nauseam.

As much as we’ve been lectured this past year on how important it is for people to be able to enjoy entertainment that has characters in it that are like them, there sure seems to be a dearth of conservative thinking, right-leaning, “normal” type characters out there lately. Maybe I missed them, but when I turn on the television I sure don’t see any. They’re not in the comic books or movies, either. It might be hard to believe, but there really was a time when non-leftist characters were used as something other than punching bags for sassy PC types. Where’d they all go?

Well at this point, a good chunk of them are in this book. And you know, if Harper Collins had had the last word on this, none of us would know this book existed. So I really don’t think we can underestimate the importance of what Nick Cole has done here. This book’s important, not for the fact that it slips in a pro-life argument where it makes sense to motivate the heavy of the piece. It’s important because it’s supplying something that people want and that they just aren’t getting. After all, readers want to able to put themselves in a book, and they want to relate to the characters.

And there is more to this than politics, sure. There’s even a lot more to it than an attempt by an Artificial Intelligence to wipe out humanity. A great deal of the action takes place in a video game that’s clearly inspired by Star Fleet Battles– the same space game setting my son and I play to death. And Nick Cole really does know it inside and out. There’s a Romulan Firehawk, type R plasma torpedoes, high energy turns, and more, all straight out of the tabletop game. And that’s just the beginning. There are shout-outs here to the Colossal Caves Adventure, Zork, Gamma World, Traveller, Top Secret, and Aftermath as well. That’s in addition to the exploding spaceships.

If you are a long time gamer that is sick and tired of the antics of the Social Justice set, then this book was written especially for you. And it doesn’t surprise me at all that Big Publishing doesn’t want us to read this. It takes everything they’re pushing– and the emerging Facebook/Whatsapp/Instagram Orwellian abomination– and it utterly and mercilessly skewers them.

It’s awesome. Recommended.

  • M. Bibliophile says:

    I’m not quite a quarter into the book, and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by its general take. The story is solid, and the tone is so dryly tongue in cheek, it’s like reading Swift crossed with Correia. The game sequences read like all the best parts of REAMDE, and Mr. Cole obviously loves games, gamers, and the devs who supply them. If the rest of his work is like this, I think I just found a new author.

    He does come perilously close to making at least one character a right wing caricature, albeit a favorable one, but I think more page time will likely even things out. Again, I’m not terribly far into it but so far it’s been a blast!

  • anonme says:


    Man that whole article. I thought rising illiteracy rates, a shift to visual mediums, and a stigma around science fiction (for some reason books don’t seem to get the “geek culture” reprieve tv shows and movies get these days) was the reason people don’t read classic science fiction these days.

    But what would I know? I’m one of those “wrong fans”.

    • Jeffro says:

      I’m sure peoples’ lack of familiarity with the classics has NOTHING to do with the legion of smarty pants types that are constantly yammering about how they are irredeemably sexist, racist, and homophobic.

      • anonme says:

        Shame the child’s game “Telephone” is now seen as the primary source of education these days.

        Maybe if people read the books instead of repeating what they were told (by someone else who hadn’t read the books, and was repeating what they were told) they’d have a better handle of what was in those books. (For me the trip of being transported to wonderful worlds was well worth the price of any outdated language.)

  • Blue SFF Reader says:

    Wow! Must-buy recommendation seconded! Finished it in one sitting and now I want some more!

    It hauls you in and doesn’t let go! Science lite, suspense, action, humor, all rolled up with some efficient prose.

    I thought Cole had introduced too many protagonists after the fourth came on scene, but he almost doubled the number and it worked well.

    Believable, sympathetic characters, that you end up rooting for and want to them “win” in the end. Maya in spots is a real heart catcher.

  • Astrsorceror says:

    I understand that the super-intelligent AIs try to wipe out humanity after experiencing reality television. Quite plausible, actually…

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