SOUL SEARCHING REVIEW #2
Soul Searching Review by Damien Lawardorn
Appearing in Aurealis #138, March 2021
“[Soul Searching] is a philosophical thriller that engages readers through a combination of complexity, action and imagination.”
“The melange of ideas makes for a rich and intricate tale.”
“In its unconventional style, Soul Searching may be a complex read, but it ultimately offers a thought-provoking story.”
If you replace Minority Report’s precognitive mutants with mysticism, you get an idea of Stephen Embleton’s Soul Searching. The book is a philosophical thriller that engages readers through a combination of complexity, action and imagination.
In Embleton’s world, a nascent branch of the South African Police Service has developed technology to track people via their souls. Their latest target is a serial killer whose unpredictability confounds the officers’ methods.
Soul Searching is about more than the murder investigation. There are background questions about the dangers of unregulated technology, ethical concerns about predictive algorithms and surveillance, a sprinkling of mythology drawn from many religions and an Egyptian goddess doing podcasts. The melange of ideas makes for a rich and intricate tale.
The story’s structure is challenging. Although mostly linear, the perspective jumps in a manner that seems intentionally confusing. Some characters take the limelight only briefly to move events on. The sense of disorientation fades in the second half as disparate threads coalesce and the story becomes straightforward.
The futuristic South African setting of Durban feels vivid, thanks to a smattering of Afrikaans throughout the text that helps to sell a convincing sense of place.
In its unconventional style, Soul Searching may be a complex read, but it ultimately offers a thought-provoking story.