THE WARDEN by Jon Richter
The Warden is set in a time where there is a deadly virus which means the Tower has been built to house some residents. There, they live in self-contained apartments with bricked-up doors and windows, where they communicate with others through big screens and have their food delivered daily by robots.
This is the world in which our hero Eugene lives. A former police detective, he became widowed and lives on his own, but talks to his other friends in the Tower through the high-tech devices and rather fancies a woman some floors above his apartment.
The mastermind of the whole technology behind everything is James. He was created as an AI to help humanity during these challenging times. Initially, he helped by making tea, hosting virtual meetings and telling his creator what to say in difficult situations. He was an underling. But now, not so much…
This book is one of those you could easily see being made into a film, it’s very visual. It’d be one of those movies where it’s a small cast, low-budget, set in one location in London and stars Noel Clarke (or would have done, until recent events have left him out of favour).
It is a futuristic book in some ways, but easy to understand and I could definitely see how the pandemic could cause some of these events. It really isn’t too far-fetched in many aspects!
It is also beautifully written. While the author Jon Richter keeps the story going at a great pace and paints his characters beautifully, there is some really gorgeous prose amongst it all too. It is definitely worth reading, I was very impressed and have since bought another of his novels.
Interview with the author
I contacted Jon Richter on Twitter to tell him how much I was enjoying his novel and asked him how he came to write this book and how much of an influence the Covid-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns, had been in the writing of The Warden. He very kindly explained this for me and I thought it would be interesting for everyone to read.
“The Warden was a weird combination of influences… I played a video game called Pathologic 2 and also watched The Platform on Netflix, and both brilliantly depicted isolated communities that quickly deteriorate… then COVID happened and I realised that we were suddenly all living in these weird isolated communities with our neighbours, and the idea sort of took shape from there… I also wrote a sci-fi novel called Auxiliary about an AI called TIM, and thought a similar character (James is maybe TIM’s distant cousin…) would provide an intriguing ‘overseer’ for my isolated community setting… and I also had long wanted to write a book inspired by the corporate world I used to inhabit (I worked as an accountant for 20 years and had some pretty senior roles in big companies… hated it!) and depict some of that world’s cutthroat ambition and other shenanigans… and I’ve always been a sucker for a murder mystery!
So all of that sort of got chucked into a big melting pot and The Warden emerged.
So yes, [it was] very much written in lockdown, probably started in March 2020 and finished a few months later… stupidly at the time I thought the pandemic would be a distant memory by the time the book came out!”
Many thanks to Jon Richter for answering my questions and to Blackthorn Book Tours for inviting me to read and review this book.