Review by Win Wiacek
Sometimes a story just cries out to be told – especially if your tastes run to the sentimentally cynical, soppily savage or wide-eyed and jaded. If that’s you, Numbercruncher is just what you need to confirm all your suspicions about life whilst having a really good time.
The tale – by Simon Spurrier and P. J. Holden is available as a splendid hardback packed with clever, controversial notions that will delight and astound lovers of metaphysical whimsy, romantic fantasy and unnecessarily extreme violence.
Like The Wizard of Oz and especially A Matter of Life and Death, this story is told on two separate levels of existence and differentiated by full-colour earthly sections and black and white views of the Afterlife. Unlike them, it’s a nasty and wittily vicious piece of work, which also applies to handy geezer Bastard Zane, operative #494 employed by The Divine Calculator to enforce the Karmic Accountancy and keep souls circulating through the great cosmic all.
The Universe is just numbers and God is a mean, pedantic bean-counter, only concerned with the smooth running of his Grand Algorithm. Unfortunately, it all starts to fall apart when Zane is tasked by the weaselly Big Boss with stopping an in-love and dying young mathematician from gaming the system.
Genius Richard Thyme, in his final seconds of mortal life, has a Eureka moment and divines the true and exact nature of everything – and how to manipulate it. Armed with such inspirational knowledge, his soul arrives before the Writer in the Grand Ledger and wheedles another spin on the Karmic Wheel – Reincarnation. Brilliant Richard had been utterly in love with a dippy hippy chick named Jessica Reed, and bargains for another chance at a life with her, and mean, petty-minded Divine Calculator gleefully accepts the proposition.
Thyme will be reborn, with all memories intact, but when this second life ends his soul will be employed by the Karmic Accountancy Agency as a collector just like Zane. The standard term of employment is for eternity – unless he can convince somebody to take his place. The indentured operatives call it “Recirculation”. There is only one get-out: a “Zero-clause” which means that if Thyme can live a life completely and totally without sin, his contract is null and void. But who could possibly live a mortal life without the slightest transgression?
Of course, The Accountant doesn’t play fair. The deck is stacked so reborn Richard is unable to even get near his lost love until it’s too late. However when Zane finally shows up in 2035AD, eagerly expecting to close the case-file and retire with Thyme taking his long-suffering place in The Register, the frustrated, cheated genius plays his own trump card.
Poignant, funny, outrageously gory, gloriously rude and wickedly clever, this is a ferociously upbeat and hilariously dark black comedy no insufferable incurable romantic could possibly resist.
Love, death, sex, more death, rebirth, lots of death and numbers: there’s your Meaning of Life right there!