Science fiction, for all its association with wild technology and alien cultures, has always concerned itself with the state of the world as it is now, using future possibilities as a lens through which to examine current issues. Louis Armand is clearly fascinated by the way our world is shaped and the way we shape our place within it; in addition to his previous novels, he has written or curated essays on literate technologies, on the avant-garde in a post-structuralist world, on pornography and bodily existence. So it makes sense that in his latest novel, Cairo, Armand has turned to cyberpunk, the dirtier, angrier child of science fiction, to examine questions of the environment, perception, identity, and time.
The book follows a disparate collection of narrators. Lawson is an Aboriginal geophysicist in central Australia, tracking meteorite debris to sell to collectors. Osborne, a lost soul in New York City, is recovering from a mental breakdown with the help of the mysterious Dr Suliman. Joblard is a former heavyweight boxer turned low-level thug, working for a pornographer with a fascination for the weird. Shinwah is an assassin from the future, tasked with hunting down anachronisms – future technology – in our present. The fifth protagonist begins the novel nameless and confused, waking in a Cairo that doesn’t yet exist, led by instinct through its decaying ruins to an uncertain destination. An apparent accident, the destruction of a previously unknown satellite, brings each of these characters into conflict with shadowy forces.