Imagine a computer chip in all its complex miniature glory, and then your soul, mind, and lifetime of memories installed upon it in the creation of a ‘you’ hologram, the perfect comforter for your loved ones after your death. Digital immortality and peace for the bereaved, what’s not to like? We find out in Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll, as we follow intrepid schoolgirl, Cora, into the AI world of the intriguing Pomegranate Institute. Sci-Fi thriller and fizzing celebration of neurodiversity, it’s one of my favourite reads of the year to date.
Cora is drawn into the sphere of the Pomegranate Institute by older brother Gregor, a proud employee on the hologram project. Accompanying him to a party at his boss’s house one night, she meets both the boss, the charismatic Magnus Hawkins, and his son, Adrien, future best friend and fellow neurodivergent soul.
Cora is autistic and Adrien has ADHD, the traits of both being integral to their ensuing friendship and key to the unfolding plot. In fact, Cora’s autism is of particular interest to Magnus Hawkins, perhaps she’d be interested in popping along to the facility and aiding them in their quest for a realistically autistic hologram? Cora’s curiosity is piqued but students of Greek mythology will know that the pomegranate is the fruit of the dead. ‘Once you’ve eaten it, it’s too late.’
Packed with gasp-inducing drama and twisty plotting, this rollercoaster read also offers a welcome insight into aspects of autism. I loved Cora’s description of walking in London, her heightened senses meaning she can ‘smell all of the bread in Borough Market before I see it.’
The smell of the river, fish and pineapple in Brixton, Cora is privileged to ‘feel’ intensely the sensory trademarks of her city.
Posing questions about scientific ethics, humanity, and even eugenics, this is a debate-stoker as well as a cracking thriller. One to watch for the 2021 literary prize shortlists.
Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll is published by Knights Of, 208 pages.