I’ve been on panels with James and chatted with him at various conventions in the past year. I’m excited now to review his book The Actuator.
The Actuator, at its heart, is about what would happen if we could literally fashion the whole world after human fantasies. A machine called “The Actuator” is used by specially trained Machine Monks to imbue controlled areas with anything they can imagine, including magic, monsters, and advanced technology, with the ultimate goal of making the world into a kind of utopia. The only problem is everyone has their own interpretation of what would make things “ideal.” When the machine is sabotaged in such a way that the whole world is transformed into a patchwork of fantasy genre realms, from horror, to steampunk, to space opera and more, it is up to a small crew of Machine Monks and base workers to find the missing keys they need to shut down the machine and restore world order. Along the way, the characters learn that it isn’t the fantasies themselves that are destructive to mankind, but the selfish tendencies of human nature manifest in the way those fantasies are indulged.
This book has a fascinating premise. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and offers a bit of a terrifying glimpse at the implications of human fantasies made literal.