Book Review: A Strange and Brilliant Light by Eli Lee

About the Book:

A riveting, thought-provoking speculative literary novel exploring the impact of the AI revolution through the eyes of three very different young women.

Lal, Janetta and Rose are living in a time of flux. Technological advance has brought huge financial rewards to those with power, but large swathes of the population are losing their jobs to artificial intelligence, or auts, as they’re called. Unemployment is high, discontent is rife and rumours are swirling. Many feel robbed – not just of their livelihoods, but of their hopes for the future.

Lal is languishing in her role at a coffee shop and feeling overshadowed by her quietly brilliant sister, Janetta, whose Ph.D. is focused on making auts empathetic. Even Rose, Lal’s best friend, has found a sense of purpose in charismatic up-and-coming politician Alek.

When vigilantes break in to the coffee shop and destroy their new coffee-making aut, it sets in motion a chain of events that will pull the three young women in very different directions.

Change is coming – change that will launch humankind into a new era. If Rose, Lal and Janetta can find a way to combine their burgeoning talents, they might just end up setting the course of history.

Published by Jo Fletcher Books
Released 22nd July 2021

My Thoughts:

Like a lot of literary novels, the intent can often lie in the unsaid. Literary speculative fiction is a side bar for me; a genre I read selectively but so far have enjoyed quite a bit. A Strange and Brilliant Light is very much a character driven novel, a slow unfolding that seems at times to flounder yet ends up finishing on a note of significant impact that makes all that came before it all the more complex and far reaching.

Each of the women are realistic and relatable, although I liked Janetta the least and Rose the most. Lal, I was in two minds about. Her situation was difficult; when you’re supporting your family, it’s not so easy to be idealistic. Whist this novel had a futuristic feel, it still also felt contemporary, giving the reader a sense of unease and trepidation. Automation is already in our society – virtual assistants are the first port of call for online customer service help lines within corporations nowadays, as just one example. Many aspects of this novel felt impending, particularly the rapid rate of change and the lack of regard for workers in the face of a burgeoning profit margin.

I enjoyed this but recommended it to those who like literary fiction of the sort where much of the story is given over to character introspection. It’s a thought-provoking novel, one that would make for a good book club discussion.


Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: A Strange and Brilliant Light by Eli Lee

  1. I heard someone the other day talking about the use of AI robots as company for the elderly in Japan and thought it was terribly sad. I don’t mind AI reminding me (nagging me, actually) that my car is due for a service, but when I think of the energy and expertise going into the development of those robots instead of solving the loneliness problem it makes me feel sick.

    Liked by 1 person

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