Reviewer’s Notes: “The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks,” is a science-fiction thriller/cyberpunk novel by William F. Aicher. It was submitted by the author in exchange for an honest review. Aicher self-published the book in February 2018 to critical acclaim. Over the last 10+ years, Aicher has authored several well-received fiction titles in multiple genres. He also penned a notable non-fiction piece, “Starving the Artist: How the Internet Culture of Free Threatens to Exterminate the Creative Class, and What Can Be Done to Save It.”
David S. Sparks is clueless. He’s in a pasture with no memory of how he got there and he can only vaguely remember his wife and kids. He’s alone until he hears a weird noise and realizes a chainsaw wielding, suit-wearing, mega-tall stranger is nearby. The stranger introduces himself as Calvin and questions David on whether he’s a Progressive. He isn’t and that’s the right answer, so they set out together somewhere safer. It isn’t immediately clear to David or the reader when, where, or why they’re headed anywhere until the very end.
It takes a special level of finesse to make a story as tightly wound and complicated as this one not seem like it’s full of holes before you get a chance to explain them. Aicher accomplishes this and then some. The plot may seem confusing but it’s worth sticking with because it’s intentional. Give into the feelings you get as you read this and experience an additional layer of entertainment.
“The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks” takes place in the near future. Humanity has sustained serious losses from chemical poisoning. Calvin explains to a still confused David that humans used technology to advance their lifespans but didn’t properly plan for their hungry, swelling population. They resorted to toxic chemicals to grow bigger and stronger crops until they started dying, some here and there and then whole cities and countries. David is told he’ll get sick because the chemicals are still there where he woke up. There are safe places, including a plastic city on the ocean – or are there?
Everything from the countryside to the hard science-fiction elements in this story are so beautifully and interestingly described I felt like I was seeing them myself. And hey, future readers, will you message me when you get to the part about eyefields?! That’s just the beginning and it sets the tone and showcases Aicher’s imagination and range.
I’m not one to use the word “pinnacle,” when describing a creative’s career because it comes across as presumptuous at best. Obviously (given the header above) I’m going to do it anyway because I’m struggling to find a better way to say this story not only fits into Aicher’s body of work and the best sellers in the genre, it raises the bar. Most, if not all of Aicher’s stories feature characters and situations that inspire confusion, curiosity, exploration of the self, and exploration of reality. This one is no different, and it reaches new heights of tension and originality.
I read the story in one sitting like I was going to win a prize and it’s because up until the end, I had no idea what was going on. When I got to the final few lines it all came together and it was devastating and upsetting and also oddly comforting and I wanted to buy the author a beer and thank him personally. I highly recommend you pick up this book.