(2010) David Louis Edelman, Pyr, US$16.00, 520 pp, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-59102-792-8
The book begins with praise for its predecessors Infoquake and Multireal, helpfully dividing the literary ones like Publisher’s Weekly and Midwest Book Review from the ones ‘From Science Fiction Critics’, ‘From Authors’, and ‘From Bloggers’. Ten pages of it might suggest a lack of confidence on the publishers’ part, but if so it is misplaced.
I was not aware before tackling Geosynchron that it was the third of a trilogy. I am sure those who have read the first two parts would get more from it, and at the end of his Afterword, Edelman suggests that even they should start again. "I bet that if you picked up Infoquake and started the whole trilogy again from the beginning, you’d see a whole bunch of stuff you didn’t see on the first go-around." But while indeed the narrative is carefully structured and written, as he says himself, it is so clear and approachable that I was not aware, until the end, that the book came with seven 'Appendixes' (sic) including a Glossary, a Timeline and summaries of the previous books. I had engaged with the characters and become involved with the situation without feeling a need for all that help; and having tried with limited success to penetrate a number of ongoing series since I began reviewing SF again, believe me, this is high praise for transparency.
That said, I did feel the lack of an anchor point to the present in the chronology. Reviewing The Accord by Keith Brooke here last year, I mentioned the late Chris Boyce’s belief that mind-machine interactions would radically change the nature of humanity, possibly within our lifetimes. Similar interactions are happening in this book, far enough ahead for the 'present day' of the timeline to be year 360 of an entirely new calendar, in relation to which the final economical collapse of the USA is an undated event early in 'Antiquity'. Yet the characters are very much people as we know them now, inspired, as Edelman tells us, by his experiences in the dotcom boom of the 1990s. "I wanted to write a science fiction book about the workplace of the future which was really about the workplace of the future. Too often in fiction, you see the workplace treated as a nice jumping-off point for the inevitable gunfights and car chases and theatrical courtroom speeches. I wanted to find the inherent drama in press releases, sales demos and marketing meetings. I wanted to write an exciting book about, as one critic sarcastically put it, 'the office politics behind the creation of a PowerPoint presentation'". That’s not fair comment in that the issues are much, much bigger, but I see what said critic means about the boardroom politics.
The action is top-level conflict between the directors of corporations running a world of intensive mind-machine interactions, for example the OCHREs, "a number of nanotechnological devices implanted in the human body to maintain health", through which the individual can alter his or her situation in all kinds of ways. The parallels with the W.E. of Brooke’s The Accord are very close, but whereas commitment to that was on an individual basis, the percentage of the human race not wired into OCHREs and their counterparts mostly inhabit the Free Republic of the Pacific Islands, an enclave of sceptics uneasily poised between the competitive forces of high-technology concerns such as the Defence and Wellness Council. Other isolated enclaves include the Orbital Detention and Rehabilitation Facility and 49th Heaven, a space habitat built as a religious retreat and now "a sybaritic resort notorious for its gambling, sporting and black coding cultures", 'black codes' being pirate software by means of which OCHREs are vulnerable to catastrophic interference.
The Maguffin at the heart of the corporate warfare is MultiReal, a new technology which enables the individual to select between alternative versions of current reality. Within this novel there is little hint of how such power might be attained but for some insight, see the discussions of quantum computing in The Nature of Space and Time by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose (Princeton University Press, 1996). But should such power be unleashed? Should everyone have access to it? If not, how do you keep the genie in the bottle? Like the atom bomb, once it’s even known that it can be done, how long before others learn how to do it?
I will not even attempt to spell out how these questions are played out within the complex existing world of the novel. But new readers will enjoy it, and existing ones will surely want to know where it leads.
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