Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Fictional Man
Al Ewing
Solaris, 317 pages

The Fictional Man
Al Ewing
Al Ewing was born in 1977, three days before Elvis died. Indoctrinated into the loathsome practice of comics at an early age by his disreputable brother, the child progressed from his innocent beginnings to the loathsome depths of sin represented by the British comic 2000AD, long known as a haunt of depravity. He remains esconced there to this day as a writer of the bizarre and fantastic, when not involved in even more sordid past-times.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Pax Omega
SF Site Review: Gods of Manhattan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'"It's not about being a Fictional. It's about being fictional. Imaginary." She fixed him with that cool green stare, blowing another plume of smoke. "I want to be a figment of someone else's imagination." The way she said it felt almost like a challenge. "I want to be narrated. I want every thought in my head to come from a typewriter. I want to be somebody's idea of what a woman is, how a woman thinks. Someone's little Mary Sue."
Niles Golan is a professional writer, primarily known for his character Kurt Power, a no nonsense ex-lawyer turned private eye, who stars in (deliberately on the part of Al Ewing) naff titles such as Pudding and Pie: A Kurt Power Novel. Following a series of failed relationships, culminating in divorce, Golan is at something of a crossroads in his life and in therapy with Ralph Cutner, the former star of a TV show, who has now reinvented himself as a Life Coach. Essentially this is just a different version of his famous character. What makes it interesting is that Cutner is a Fictional; a being that is a clone of an invented personality. Fictionals are in all ways identical to standard humans, except for the fact that they are not considered to be real. Products of advanced biotech, paid for by the entertainments industry, Fictionals are not born of woman, but come out of a tube as fully formed adults, complete with a made up personality and past history. Al Ewing happily pilfers the sources for his Fictionals in a way that is more like musical sampling, allowing him to dabble with multiple iterations of Sherlock Holmes, and an long standing, obscure comic book character called the Black Terror. It is this fellow, in the form of Bob, a retired TV star and failed voice actor, from whom Ewing gets the most mileage. Fictional Bob also happens to be the best and only 'real' friend of Niles Golan, despite Golan's barely repressed prejudice which makes it hard for him to believe that any Fictional could ever be as human as himself. Fictionals don't age, they remain exactly as they were when they stepped out of their tubes until the day they die. Just how long those lives last apparently has no firm limit. On the verge of a big break writing for Hollywood, Niles Golan's life and relationships begin to take a series of bizarre twists, which force him to question what it is that makes a person real. Also explored is the tempting -- for some -- concept of absolving oneself of responsibility for making life decisions by having someone else write them. Weaving in and out of the narrative is the movie pitch that Golan is asked to write, not as he'd hoped for the Fictional debut of his own alter ego, Kurt Power, but for a remake of a camp 60s James Bond spoof called The Delicious Mr Doll. Golan's Research eventually reveals that the work was based on an horrifically illustrated short story, "The Doll-Party or The Life And Death Of A Doll." Tracking down one of the five copies printed leads him to some disturbing revelations, and the apogee of what he maintains ultimately separates the womb-born from Fictionals; the capacity to grow and change.

Stylistically, The Fictional Man reads like a favourable cross between Grant Morrison and Jonathan Carroll. Al Ewing has something here that is not startlingly original, but is nevertheless different. At turns satirical, melancholy, terrifying, funny and moving, it lurches around not unlike Niles Golan's life, tossing around ideas and enticing us to think well beyond the confines of what we know. There were only a couple of irritations, mentioned here because they are reoccurring. First, the teasing of a terrible problem with a Dexter Morgan Fictional, which was never revealed. More importantly, there is no attempt to answer some of the more interesting and serious questions posed by the concept of Fictionals. Such as the absence of an expiry date in Fictionals; products made for a specific commercial purpose. Why would studios leave these vastly expensive products wandering around when they were no longer required. Or is that the point at which a Fictional becomes a person, complete with human rights, etc. Also, what is the physical basis for a cloned body that a Fictional inhabits, and is the spark of its life considered to be an artificial soul. These issues aside, I found The Fictional Man to be intriguing and entertaining, at times not far short of a modern classic, and have no hesitation in recommending it as a worthwhile purchase.

Copyright © 2013 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide