Cover of Joshua Helmer's Dark Wonders.

February 12, 2021, by UoN School of English

Review: Dark Wonders by Joshua Helmer

Dark Wonders is a set of three linked dystopian short stories from Nottingham-based writer Joshua Helmer. Comparisons to Black Mirror are easy to make, as the three stories involve a dark insight into a near future in which different forms of technology have an impact on humans and the world. However, underneath this genre similarity, Helmer’s stories stand out in their own right.

The first story is ‘Boxx’, in which a travelling salesman, cynical and numb to the world, is tasked with selling a new device (the titular Boxx) along with the company’s usual inventory of fire safety equipment. The Boxx simulates the experience of being in a fire and carries the risk of potential addiction if misused.

Next, is ‘The Rig.’ Heavily influenced by the 2019 UK General Election, it addresses the lies and false promises inherent in our political system. The technology used to highlight this is the Verifier, a system that gives a score out of 100 to verify the truth of politician statements in television debates.

The final story is ‘Osea Island’, in which the protagonist Sonja receives a package from her recently deceased friend about a device, invented to help control seal behaviour, that may well have been adapted for a more nefarious use.

The stories shine a stark light on how humans and technology interact with each other, particularly highlighting how the human capacity for producing new technology can often overtake our capacity to cope with the changes it brings. These three original concepts are explored intelligently by Helmer, with lively prose, making Dark Wonders a must-read for any fan of literature, not just of dystopian sci-fi.

Dark Wonders can be purchased on Amazon, as a physical or ebook.

Harry Wilding is a Creative Writing MA student at the University of Nottingham.

Image credit: Joshua Helmer
Posted in Book review