Why 'XX' Is Unlike Any Other Sci-Fi Story

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Rian Hughes/Abrams
The debut novel from graphic designer and illustrator Rian Hughes merges form and function in inventive new ways.

XX is not like other science-fiction novels.

The debut novel from graphic designer and illustrator Rian Hughes doesn’t just have an unusual conceit at its heart, as a signal from space turns out to be something far more complex than anyone imagines… it also has a format that draws on Hughes’ day job and influences of everything from concrete poetry and Dada artwork to Wikipedia and redacted government reports.

Hughs,  known for his logos for DC, Marvel and Valiant Entertainment, has crafted a complex read that touches on everything from the potential for memetic life to the life and work of a forgotten (and, it should be pointed out, entirely fictional) science-fiction writer, told in a manner that includes “traditional” prose, as well as magazine excerpts, website articles, transcripts and more, creating something that is as much found object with a purpose as it is a science-fiction novel, per se. Most of all, it’s a beautifully designed piece of art with a compelling, at times hilarious, story behind it.

All of which is a preamble to the below excerpt, which is one of the more visually striking parts of the book — but, in that, not to be taken as an example of what to expect from XX as a whole. All that you need to know is that “Jack” is Jack Fenwick, an artificial intelligence expert who is part of a start-up called Intelligencia, and that he is communicating with… something related to the message at the start of the excerpt. Everything else is a glimpse of just what XX has in store.

XX will be released by Abrams imprint The Overlook Press on Nov. 10.