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The Crack Magazine

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Jungle House by Julianne Pachico

In Julianne Pachico’s compelling Jungle House, ‘mother’ is the AI ‘Alexa’ who runs and controls a well-off family’s second home. She’s aided by two robots, a drone, and Lena, the mysterious girl, who is the only human help. When we pick up the story the artificial intelligence is deteriorating and seemingly becoming obsolete as the surrounding jungle starts reclaiming the house and the well-off family, the Morels, no longer visit or seem to care about its maintenance, which gives Lena full run of the place and time to piece together her story and the nature of her relationship to the Morels and mother. Unfortunately for her, mother is perplexing, demanding and becoming needy as she reaches what one assumes is her end of life. Meanwhile there are elections in the country which could possibly mean that the assumed threat posed by the rebels will be nullified, but, as communications to the city seem permanently cut, mother and Lena are more concerned with baiting and battling each other. Does mother know more than she’s revealing to Lena? And who is she secretly communicating and/or plotting with? And what’s Lena’s plan, and does it mean leaving mother to rot away in the jungle in order to figure out who she is? “There are a hundred thousand things out there that she needs to start learning. Even if it takes the rest of her life”. Julianne Pachico’s smart plotting means you’re never quite certain what’s going to happen next but you’re left rooting for mother and Lena, 2023’s unlikeliest literary duo. Maybe the overarching theme: that the much pondered AI nightmare is one where the ranks of robots, virtual assistants and satellites are as weird and fucked up as the rest of us. Intriguing and beautifully written Jungle House is totally recommended.

Jungle House – Julianne Pachico – Serpent’s Tail - £14.99

Steven Long