I'm not sure I've read a book since Planet of the Apes where I have disliked the protagonist (or -ists in his case) so much. I mean furiously. I try to veer clear of spoilers, but it will be necessary in this review, so if you do not wish to know the outcome certainly leave now.
Robin and Miranda live together. They apparently don't talk much because they know next to nothing about one another, not ages, not place of origin, not likes or dislikes. Sure, they've been flatmates for only a couple of months, however, we meet them returning from a mutual friend's garden party, so surely they would have met at some point prior to moving in together. I don't know about you, but if I was going to friend's a party it would be with people or a person I knew, not almost complete strangers. Anyway, there's a point to this. So, they get back to their flat, go the sleep as normal, and then Robin wakes in the night only to find himself in some strange place. He goes into Miranda's room - even though she has EXPLICITLY told him never to do that - instead of just knocking to wake her up, to tell her something's not right. So she gets up and they find themselves in some weird generic place, and when they re-enter their bedrooms they find all the furniture gone. Thus, their exploration of this weird place begins.
Or does it? I'm not sure about you, but if I woke up in a strange place, with nobody else about but my basically-a-stranger flatmate for company, I would first secure a location to hole up in, search for water, then food, then somewhere to hole up in, then maybe source or fashion some weapons. These two just wander about, passively coming across things, doing dumb things, having conversations like where are you from (apparently South Africa and Australia but neither knew this already) and how old are you, and acting like horny teenagers (apparently they're in their early twenties, him working for the government...and her an assistant curator...). It doesn't take these two long to just start having sex (and amusingly call it lovemaking) in the public areas even though they are ill-suited; Miranda the shockingly irritating and aggressive woman and Robin the remarkably gamma and flaky man. She has a nasty streak; when Robin states he was waiting for the right woman before he had sex, Miranda asks him if he's calling her a slut. What? And I'm sure she actually hits him at one point. Of course, with such strong morals, his flights of fancy about saving himself for the woman he loves are tossed out the window because Miranda acts like a...well, see previous, and yet continues to berate him at every moment. They also discover the whole ship is rigged with cameras. Yep.
Anyway, after some exploits the whole thing finally winds up with them discovering they have been in a big simulation (or possibly not), by some mental billionaire trying to create manned-missions to space. This billionaire has this massive building, a big team of deceivers, running a hoax with cameras everywhere, to win a wager with a mate that he could keep two people in this fake Big Brother illusion for seven days because apparently they're trying to build the same kind of ship and wanted to see if it would work.
Now. I am inclined to perhaps suggest that this whole charade is perhaps a light-hearted satire at the lengths some immoral people might go to ensure the continuity of the human race, and the absolute irredeemable idiots that might be sent to take part (God rest the human race). Maybe it is. However, after being drugged, abducted, deceived, mentally and physically abused, almost starved, injured, attacked, and filmed & perved on twenty-four-seven, how much would you expect as compensation, if you were dumb enough to accept compensation rather than take these disgusting pieces of fecal matter through the court system for extremely violating your humanity, let alone your basic rights and liberty, and expose their utterly disgusting behaviour? How much? Billions?
These MORONS take £250k each.
Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
Let that just sink in for a moment.
Really, really, I’m thinking now this must be ultra-satire. Maybe the author was just expressing how stupid, how utterly ignorant and degenerate some people in the modern era can be (I mean Robin apparently works for the government so a fair assessment). How people like this understand no value in anything at all, can hold no integrity or long-term beliefs and succumb with little effort to temptation even in life-threatening circumstances. The writing is simple, not particularly inspiring, though it's not unreadable, and there's no deeper philosophical value as most science fiction would offer. The story is basically soft porn throughout (breeding ship, sure), the main characters did remind me of the idiocy of the journalist in Planet of the Apes (novel), so this was the parallel it took.
I won't end this on a downer. There are aspects of this work I liked, such as the light-hearted tone, as much sci-fi can be very heavy. I was intrigued by the androids and the systems they had developed, or been developed for, and that would have been a far more interesting exploration for me. The 'nice' androids, whose work was for humanity, and the 'bad' androids, who generally had uploaded human consciousnesses (except the really weird 'orgasmic' qualities I don’t want to repeat). Though not original, they still formed part of the more interesting aspects of the book (even though they ended up being actors...or did they?). That section was a far more interesting investigation of possible human futures, that some unqualified woman managing to 'fly' a space shuttle. If it had been a case of them really being on a spaceship, and really being locked out of their own century forever, with no other humans at all, then that would have been a better read in my opinion. Or these two find out that some idiot billionnaire managed to really make that ship and somehow managed these unsuspecting people aboard it. Though, I should note that I read it fairly quickly, as it's not very long, and certainly out of some morbid curiosity in how these two humans managed to live in real life so long.
Maybe - maybe - I missed something in this book. Answers on a postcard. But I don't think so. Though I did have an emotive reaction to it. That's what books are for.