Mark Cantrell, Author

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Blog: Matrix Rebooted? Try Something Dark and Gritty

Posted by Mark Cantrell on March 18, 2017 at 4:15 PM

Citizen Zero: The Matrix & Me


Rumour has it there’s a reboot of The Matrix on the way. Well, Inspired Quill’s already got it covered, writes Mark Cantrell, with the forthcoming release of a darker, grittier take on AI and virtual reality – Citizen Zero


SOMETIMES, it seems as if I’ve been living in the shadow of The Matrix, at least when it comes to my novel Citizen Zero.


Now, with the paperback release of my work on the cards this year, courtesy of Inspired Quill, I hear it reported that Warner Bros is considering a reboot of the 1999 movie – guys, seriously?


Back in the day, as a 20-something author working on the original draft of Citizen Zero, I’d often have the Wachowski duo’s anarcho-pop classic thrown in my face. There I’d be, telling some acquaintance about the book, and they’d hit me with: “Hey, that sounds like The Matrix.”


It was kind of infuriating. My only response was to look at them bemused and shrug. Well, what else was I supposed to do? I didn’t know the film.


Quite how it escaped my attention back then, I don’t know. Guess I was too buried in my own work. But it’s good in a way; it means I wasn’t in any way influenced by the movie.


For all the resonance that exists between them, Citizen Zero remains very much my own take on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the underlying malignancy at work between creators and created.


I should fast forward here for the sake of clarity: when I finally got round to seeing The Matrix (and loving it, incidentally) I got to see where they were coming from. Yeah, I could see the similarities in some of the themes that inspired people to come up with the comparison, but I also saw the huge differences; when all’s said and done, my novel is a different beast entirely.


Citizen Zero is grittier. My novel is a social satire, a very British political thriller, as much as it a sci-fi dystopia. It’s a critique of the here and now: a wake-up call from a burning tomorrow. The story doesn’t pit humanity in a life or death struggle against AI overlords; no, the relationship between man and machine in Citizen Zero is nothing so binary.


Dare I suggest that Citizen Zero’s depiction of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and our place within its inception is far darker than anything we find in The Matrix? Yes, I rather think I dare. Eat that, Neo.


Citizen Zero is a dark novel; deceptively so, I hope, as it draws you in to the intrigues and the paradoxes of its tangled realities. It really isn’t anything like The Matrix, despite the surface similarities of its tropes. Of course, this isn’t going to stop me invoking the movie as a metaphor to help plug you into its mindset.


Or, rather, to name-drop another movie to complete my metaphor: Citizen Zero is like a cross between The Matrix and V for Vendetta. Hopefully, that’s not too bitter a pill for you to swallow.




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