Sunday, June 28, 2009

David Louis Edelman - Infoquake (Book Review)

"INFOQUAKE" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 432/534 pages
Publisher: Prometheus Books / Pyr ( July 2006)

In the distant future, a few centuries after a big societal revolution and the war against the thinking machines, the science and business of bio/logics is what keeps the world turning. Bio/logics - the science of using programming code that helps manage and extend the capabilities of human body and mind - is the forte of Nacht and his personal fiefcorp. Nacht, a shrewd businessman and a brilliant programmer, and his employees find themselves at the crux of it all when Nacth receives a business proposal to implement, make practical and promote a revolutionary new technology under the name of MultiReal. While this is, without a doubt, the opportunity of their lives, no one really knows yet what this MultiReal is and on top of that, the worlds most powerful and pervasive force, The Defense and Wellness Council, doesn't look too kindly upon the emancipatory implications of this new technology...


DAVID LOUIS EDELMAN creates within "Infoquake" a vivid, high-tech future, of which he focuses mainly on what he knows most of - programming, marketing, technology, office and intercorporational relations. The author, however, does not completely neglect the human factor that keeps the reader from losing interest in the tale. There is much focus on the subjects mentioned above, and while they are of little interest to this reader, he nevertheless manages to present them in a lucid and, for the most part, unobtrusive manner. There are a lot of layers to the world EDELMAN created, but infodumps are surprisingly sparse. If there is anything left unexplained or you find something confusing, you can easily search it up in the handy appendix at the end of the novel. The author succeeded at extracting the essence of the contemporary corporate and capitalist driven world and projected it into a future setting. Thus, the story of "Infoquake" operates on a higher level as an effective allegory of here and now. All this brings credibility -- and the promise to the reader that he can decipher the story -- to the world of "Infoquake". The world-building is still fantastic enough to feel sf-nal, though.

EDELMAN is an apt writer. His style is clean and flowing. I especially admired the observations characters make about themselves and others. I often found myself reading aloud specific passages from the book to my significant other, because even though I wasn't as captivated by the novel as I'd like to be, I still wanted to state my appreciation for the author's writing skills (i.e. I could easily relate to his way of thinking and I enjoyed his lucid insights, whether it be into how society works, how one conducts business, how people relate to each other or what makes a person tick). EDELMAN does a great job at making you keep reading a story, even if you don't find the plot all that interesting.

Characters are, with the exception of Nacht, all a bit underdeveloped. Nacht is a strong-willed, goal-driven, charismatic and somewhat enigmatic protagonist who walks a thin line between being a hero or an anti-hero. Jara, one of the Nacht's employees, perfectly recapitulates the readers attitude towards Nacht: she is fascinated by and attracted to his strong vision and charisma, but she also despises him for his self-assured and sometimes obsessive ways.

The biggest problem of "Infoquake" is its lukewarm story. The start is slow and the climaxes, such as they are, lack emphasis. The ending, especially, doesn't provide the tension and/or catharsis the way EDELMAN leads us to expect. This is mostly due to the fact that the revolutionary new technology - the MultiReal, fails to impress. If you can't go without devious plot twists, high drama, swirling emotions, action-packed scenes, gritty violence or explicit sex scenes then this book offers little for your tastes. Emphasis lies elswhere and it's not such a drag I made it sound like.

Rat's reading sarcastically promotes "Infoquake" with the following words: "If you like to see all the office politics behind the creation of a Powerpoint presentation, then this book is for you!". While Rat's words are uncomplimentary to an extent I wouldn't mimic for they are a bit rude and simplify things way too much, but if I wouldn't like the book upon reading it, which I did, this appraisal by Rat would, I'm afraid, strike home. For there is wit and a bit of truth in his sarcasm.

Hallmarks of "Infoquake" are (1) a detailed and well thought out future society (especially the driving force behind it: bio/logics), (2) memorable writing (3) and a few really memorable sections of the story (e.g. Nacht's backstory), but this qualitities can't full compensate for some of the jutting drawbacks, namely, (1) a somewhat tepid plot, which is also (2) plagued by meandering pace and insubstantial climaxes - or lack thereof, (3) underdeveloped characters (with exception of Nacht), and finally: (4) MultiReal, a technology that fails to impress, even though it was obviously meant to since the whole novel is structured around it.

All in all, "Infoquake" is a slightly above average debut with a few brilliant features and storytelling moments, and it shows DAVID LOUIS EDELMAN as a promising new author, but it ultimatelly lacks substance and charisma for me to recommend it to you.
~ ThRiNiDiR ~



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