A crime novel with a philosophical twist and a dash of sci-fi. A book written in 1992 but set in 2013, imagines an Orwellian world where potential serial killers are pre-determined by a controversial program. Wittgenstein (a principle character in the book not the philosopher) mentions “1984”: “I have never even read 1984. What’s the point? It’s long past its sell-by-date.” The potential killers, described in the book as being deficient in Ventro Medial Nucleus, are monitored and given the names of famous artists and philosophers. One such VMN negative man has hacked into the system and has taken it onto himself to eliminate the others for the good of society. The killer goes by the name of “Wittgenstein” after the Austrian philosopher, whose posthumous publication was a similarly titled “Philosophical Investigations.”
In charge of the investigation to find Wittgenstein and bring him to justice is the man-hating Inspector Isadora “Jake” Jacowicz. She describes to a doctor what happened to a man who attempted to grope her: “What do you think happened? I decked him.”
Punishment in 2013 consists of punitive coma of varying lengths — often permanent. More humane than the death penalty and cheaper than prison.
The story alternates between Jake and Wittgenstein and all the philosophical asides and tangents detract somewhat from a somewhat underdeveloped story. It is a book which may be of more interest to a philosophy student than someone who likes crime novels, it is all a little weird and confusing at times, but then, Wittgenstein, the philosopher was a keen student of how people communicate or rather miscommunicate with each other.
My rating : 3 out of 5