The best science fiction works on a number of levels, with readers getting as much out of it as they are willing to put in. Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock is a perfect example of this. It’s fast-paced and fun, but there is so much more going on should you choose to accept it. The titular Lulabelle Rock has thirteen ‘copies’ – designed and designated doppelgängers whom she now wants exterminated. To do so, she turns to the most recent creation, who embarks on a mission to take them out in a particular order. Along the way, ‘Thirteen’ has to confront the nature of their own existence, and that of others. At a time when concerns over AI have never been higher, Maud Woolf’s novel arrives with perfect timing – although it is unlikely to allay your fears.
It encompass every one of what many consider the seven basic narrative plots – ‘overcoming the monster’, ‘rags to riches’, ‘the quest’, ‘voyage and return’, ‘comedy’, ‘tragedy’, and ‘rebirth’, which tells you not only that this is a story worth telling, but one thoroughly told. A winning mixture of genre fiction (the book could also be classed as a crime thriller), rather than other novels it put me in mind of films, which is apt as Lulabelle Rock makes her name in the movies, and there are cinematic references, both explicit and implicit, throughout. I thought I spotted Blade Runner, Collateral, Kill Bill, Black Swan, and even Sunset Boulevard, among others, but you’ll discover your own references, which is part of the fun.
There are also elements of the mystical, magical, and uncanny. Chapters are named after the first fifteen tarot cards (The Fool to Temperance) with brief text on each, and there are questions asked about the nature of spirituality, the concept of a soul, and the dangerous desire for immortality.
Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock is one of the most enjoyable reads I have experienced in some time. The book’s events move at pace, but once you have finished you’ll find there are moments which remain with you and cause you to reflect, and even re-read. The action may capture your imagination, but the heart of the novel is to be found in the space in between.
Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock is published by Angry Robot Books