BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the far future, small corporations, called Fiefecorps, battle between one another to win the hearts and bodies, almost literally, of consumers. They produce the software products that control the OCHRES (nano-bots) present in every living human. Fiefecorp master Natch has raised his fiefecorp’s rating faster than any other in history, using a mix of products and shady marketing. It is Natch who is selected by Margaret Surina to help bring her revolutionary product, MultiReal to market.
PROS: Impressively detailed future society, well thought-out consequences of future software development, makes the boardroom an interesting place to read about.
CONS: Aside from Natch, the other characters aren’t really well developed, I didn’t really buy in what MultiReal is.
BOTTOM LINE: A very strong debut novel mixing a historically detailed timeline with an intriguing technological future. David Louis Edelman makes reading about corporate shenanigans fun.
If you search around, you’ll see that Infoquake is getting rave reviews, with some calling it the best SF book in years. I’m not willing to go that far, but it is certainly up there. As I stated in the Synopsis, Infoquake mainly deals with the intrigues between small corporations and, sometimes, with the governing Defense and Wellness Council. It’s a tribute to Edelman’s story telling that he makes politics, albeit corporate, interesting to read. The maneuverings each corporation takes to try and outdo each other rings true, even if the products are outrageously named (PokerFace 78.4). In fact, Edelman seems to be channeling Charlie Stross in his ability to imagine future tech and the consequences arising from its use, hence the continual software upgrades that produce a PokerFace 78.4. This software runs on what, I think, is the coolest aspect of the book, the OCHRES, basically nano-bots that reside inside each person. These nano-bots can’t act on their own and each person must select which software to load on them. There is a wide variety of software available that performs a huge variety of tasks, from lowering blood pressure, to increasing night vision, and so on. Each of the fiefecorps compete to have their software loaded on as many people as possible and climb up the Primo’s ratings ladder.
The drive to be number one causes enormous pressure to be placed on the employees of each fiefecorp, and its within Natch’s fiefecorps that the story focuses. Natch has managed to get his fiefecorp up the Primo’s ladder faster than any other company. On the heels of becoming #1, for a few minutes at least, Natch is contacted by Margaret Surianm. She asks Natch to help her bring to market, in one weeks time, her revolutionary MultiReal technology. Since there is no prototype, Natch’s group must first figure out what MultiReal is supposed to do, then code up a prototype, all in a week. Oh, and by demonstrating the prototype they will keep the tech out of the hands of Len Borda, the Chairman of the Defense and Wellness Council and, hopefully, stop the assassination attempts on Margaret’s life by Len Borda. Thus, the pressure is really ratcheted up for Natch’s team as they struggle to produce a demo. All this is cool stuff, but because the book is relatively short, it leads to my two concerns with the book.
First, most of the characters in the book are given barely any backstory. Edelman does a good job with Natch, devoting several chapters to his background and motivations. This lengthy flashback had several ideas in it reminiscent of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. It also does a good job of explaining why Natch is the way he is. However, no one else gets more than a page or two and, as a consequence, they all seem flat.
Second, and perhaps the biggest concern, is MultiReal itself. Basically, MR allows the user to ‘view’ all possible results of a given action and then allows them to choose the outcome they want. Even though this takes place in a virtual world, I still didn’t really buy it. The amount of processing power needed for this would be enormous, and there is no hint anywhere in the book that the future computing power was fast enough or ubiquitous enough to be up to that challenge. Even so, the idea is cool although I didn’t buy into the implementation.
Infoquake should appeal to just about any SF reader, but if you like Herbert’s Dune or any of Stross’ work, you should really enjoy this book.