Published by Pyr
Author Web site: http://www.infoquake.net
David Louis Edelman, much like the titular burst of information in his debut novel, explodes on the science fiction scene with Infoquake. In it, Edelman spins technology advancement through the lens of a marketing executive, providing a new and fresh view on a SF-nal element familiar to many – virtual reality and cybernetic enhancements. In Edelman’s realistic and plausible future, this technology goes by the name of bio/logics. According to one of the many appendices in the book, bio/logics is “The science of using programming code to extend the capabilities of the human body and mind.” While this isn’t exactly the newest technological advancement postulated by a Science Fiction Author, seeing how such a technology is marketed might be relatively novel. With Edelman’s background in software development and marketing, he proves the writerly adage of write what you know. Being at the cutting edge of not just the technology, but the market, is where Natch, Edelman’s larger-than-life protagonist excels. While technology has often been molded on the ideas of science fiction writers, Edelman (and Natch) proves there is more to it than that, the creator of the technology must convince people their new technology is essential to their well-being.
Cool technology viewed through a unique perspective can get a story and novel only so far. The writer must also create characters about whom the reader feels a compulsion to read. With the simultaneously fascinating and disturbing anti-hero Natch, Edelman has given readers an intriguing protagonist at the center of a technological and societal storm. In Edelman’s imagined future, technology and society are nearly one and the same. Where in today’s society, many headlines are dominated by the film and television stars, in the world of Infoquake programmers and the latest bio/logics advancement steal the headlines.
Set in the far future, perhaps a millennium from the present, the story takes place about three hundred years after a global collapse and reawakening of society. In the appendices and Web site Edelman created, one gets a sense of how much detail is laid in the foundation for his future history. Despite the timeline bridging today and the current time of the novel, the history of one of the pre-eminent families, and the glossary, Edelman does not overburden the narrative with large infodumps. Chances are, a glimpse at Edelman’s rich book Web site, http://www.infoquake.net will only whet the reader’s appetite. Even without completely reading the supplemental material about his world, there is a deepness to the world and backstory that brims with reality.
As the first book in Edelman’s Jump 225 trilogy, Infoquake sets up the world of corporate software marketing, humanity’s absorption of technology, and the genesis of the character of Natch. A programmer with a cold-hearted focus not unlike Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko, Natch does show, thankfully more depth. Edelman’s introduction of Natch in the “present” of the story to then only backtrack and show his early years was a clever technique, which added more layers to Natch’s personality. It both confirmed and contradicted some of the initial assumptions one could garner throughout the very early chapters of Natch’s present. His backstory also made him a much more plausible and convincing character than one might suspect upon initial introduction. This is perhaps best seen in the reaction of Jara, one of his apprentices at his fiefcorp, Natch Personal Programming. Though Jara has a great deal more experience than Natch, the route her life has taken her leads her under the wing of Natch. As one might suspect, this is not an easy pill to swallow for Jara. At times, Edelman truly puts the reader in Jara’s self-loathing head as she simultaneously adores and hates Natch.
Where much of SF deals with people changing the world around them to fit their needs, Edelman posits a world where people augment themselves with technology. Again perhaps not a new storytelling technique, but in Edelman’s deft hands, it reads fresh and relevant. Given the prevalence of augmentation surgery in today’s world, this biological enhancement is a logical next step. Natch just happens to be the best at what he does, which is create and sell such programs. When Natch’s company gains a number one ranking on the bio/logics bestseller list, Margaret Surina, the matriarch of the most esteemed and revered family in the world comes calling. As much as Natch has advanced his bio/logics programs and corporation, Surina offers him the opportunity to be part of the next big thing, MultReal. Surina’s grandfather, Sheldon, happened to be the inventor
y of bio/logics, the technology Natch has mastered. Sheldon Surina’s vision and power are what helped to bring about the Reawakening of humanity. Needless to say, Natch finds it difficult to say no to her offer. As is the case with most, if not all, offers that seem too good to be true, Natch finds himself in a situation that turns out to be much more than he bargained.
When a new author puts forth such a cohesive, clear vision in a well-told innovative story, the writer of course will be compared to his literary predecessors. In this case, Frank Herbert’s Dune might be an easy one to compare. After all, Herbert’s world was meticulously detailed and was a landmark work. On the other hand, it isn’t entirely fair to Edelman to burden his remarkable novel with such a measuring point. Dune has had 40 years of publication history to establish its place in the genre. Nonetheless, the manner in which people who experienced Dune upon its publication speak about Herbert’s opus is not dissimilar to the feeling Infoquake elicits – the genre might not be quite the same after this book. Natch’s character also has some parallels to Hiro Protagonist, the main character of Neal Stephenson’s break-out novel, Snow Crash. Like Stephenson and Herbert’s work, Edelman’s novel seems to have come along at the right time, capturing a sense of the world as it is now, reacting to and projecting a fully realized extrapolation of it.
Despite the fact that Infoquake is a first novel, the story reads extremely well, with both a strong, solid narrative and plausible characters. Edelman, like the best of his peers, (and better than most) straddles the ever important lines – giving readers the wow-ness of the genre, while giving readers something new, and doing these things in a great story. More importantly, he lays out his story in such a way the reader begs for more, providing only a hint of things to come. Infoquake is a stunning debut novel by a lucid, precise, and talented new voice in the genre. Although the first book in a series, the story does end with a deal of closure. With an already impressive list of authors in their stable, Pyr looks to have nabbed one of, if not, the next big thing in Science Fiction. This may be THE science fiction book of the year.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford