Infoquake (Volume 1 of the Jump 225 Trilogy)
Pyr / Prometheus Books
US First Edition Trade Paperback
Publication Date: 07-11-2006
400 Pages; $15
Date Reviewed: 06-26-06
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2006
We've all been here, at work, well after time to go home. Semi-willingly under the thumb of the driven, the inspired, the more-brilliant-than-thou, or the annoyingly inept. Oh, they'll tell always tell you they’re more brilliant than you, and as humble as they might seem, that info-quake always seems to strike at the appropriate moment. Emotions jostle one another within us. Hatred, for the intensity of the work, the need for approval of one's own work, the desperation to get away, the anxiety at not wanting to do so before being finished, the terror that you will never finish. Imagine your worst work-stress nightmare, then fast forward it some five hundred years.
Actually, David Louis Edelman has done so for you. 'Infoquake' is a grimly humorous and imaginative novel set some five-hundredish years in the future that posits many changes but keeps one constant. Work is hell. Well, heaven and hell. The lives we lead shall be transformed, but we'll still be up nights sweating bullets, trying to get a mis-managed project out the door on time. Edelman makes his conceit real with dogged characterization, a super-detailed future and situations that are unfolding even as you read this, somewhere behind closed doors in offices where raised voices don't quite carry. 'Infoquake' is both a promising first novel from an author and the start of an intriguing series.
'Infoquake' starts in the middle of both the overarching story and of a hot-rails-to-hell project. Natch is a master of bio/logics (more about this later), and with his crew, Jara, his sales force, so to speak, and Horvil, his programming department, so to speak, he's going to climb to the number one spot on Primo's, a bio/logics bestseller list. Natch asks the impossible of his crew and by virtue of their talent, his talent and his drive, gets it. Edelman ratchets back to that prime formative moment in Natch's life to demonstrate more precisely who he is and why he is, then fast-forwards again to post-prime@Primo's life for Natch and his gang. It's another project, this one bigger, badder, and with a deadline that has implications not just for the survival of Natch's "fiefcorp" but for that of a heretofore profitable civilization. It's 3 AM on Wednesday morning, nobody knows jack about the tech, everything is broken and the creator has shut herself away. Will they make the presentation on Friday morning?
If you think you can guess, then maybe you haven’t been in enough tight corporate spots. 'Infoquake' is first and foremost a prime example of the Dismal Science fiction, taking today's business practices and firing them down a vacuum tube five hundred years hence. Sure, we've got universal you-are-there telepresence, we've struggled through the Singularity with a hand wave to outlaw evil AI, the nearby planets and asteroids have been converted into high-tech sweatshops, but nobody's figured out how to schedule a product introduction. It's all panic in the virtual cubicles and screaming that it can't be done while scheming to get it done on time and under budget. Edelman has one hell of a hoot taking high-tech marketing out to draw and quarter it with style and panache. 'Infoquake' is a very funny and insightful novel of modern economics through a futuristic funhouse mirror,
Edelman's cast of characters is sparse and relatively simple. It's clearly first-novel work, but smart first novel work, making a virtue of Edelman's strengths and weaknesses. Natch is one unpleasant son-of-a-bitch, but thanks to super-straightforward back-story telling, he's a comprehensible son-of-a-bitch. He's the backstabbing boss from hell who shows just enough loyalty and potential profit to keep his troops sticking around. His troops are pretty limited. Jara is our general purpose POV character, charged with what roughly corresponds to marketing duties. You either know or are the type, which is true as well of Horvil, the geeky programmer. But there's enough meat on these bones and sympathy in the situations to keep you within the time frame for completing this project. Second level characters come to life as well, they just don’t get as much attention, at least in this installment, though should they get more, they’re interesting enough to want to hear from again.
'Infoquake' is the first in a trilogy, so don’t expect to have all your questions answered. Do expect a very solid and satisfying read however, a meat and potatoes meal of corporate skullduggery, lies, cheats, and satisfying successes. The technology in the novel might support some more complex plotting further down the line, but Edelman is introducing a pretty complicated future here, and he elects to keep things pretty simple with regards to the plot while setting up a situation that could indeed become much more complicated.
Edelman's future has lots of interesting nods and textures. The kind of virtual life and secondary worlds that have become part-and-parcel of post cyberpunk science fiction are here in layers, yes, layers. If you enjoy is-it-real within it-is-virtual shenanigans, you'll find them here, though not at such a level that you'll need a scorecard. Oh, yes, bio/logics, we were going to have more about that later, weren't we? Well, I'm not going to write the appendix; Edelman already has, and if you can hang with the idea of software for your body, then, I'm guessing you haven’t spent too much time administering computers. Try it, you'll think twice about installing something even so simple as PokerFace 11.whatever. Though there have been more than a few meetings where I wish I could have had a truly working version.
In true first-novel enthusiasm, Edelman provides six appendices that outline the past that leads to his future (that is, the time between our present and the present of his novel), a 'Clockwork Orange'-style glossary of terms he uses, and several white papers on various topics that relate to the plot. This reader started out referring to these bits, but they quickly became unnecessary, because, well, Edelman's a good writer. One is tempted to complain of their "infodump" presence, but then were they not to be included but only available on the website, one would be tempted to complain of their absence. 'Tis easier to ignore them if you wish than to look them up on the web if you want to know something, so let's keep 'em and promise not to let them spoil the fun of the story.
Because, in the final Marketing Analysis, 'Infoquake' delivers a solid and satisfying science fiction novel and a very funny send-up of the product introduction process. It's the kind of book that deserves to be passed quietly from cubicle to cubicle in tech companies around the nation and indeed around the world. And it's the kind of novel that you want to be passing, the kind of novel you want to be reading. If you're not in the chain then you're part of the drain. As the introduction to a series, it's promising on a number of levels. Edelman is a skilled writer who delivers the kind of basics you expect out of a novel in a clean manner. Moreover, he's set up a situation that he can pleasingly complicate. David Louis Edelman has delivered a fine product, a look at product introductions that is itself a product introduction. One can only hope you’re reading this review at work or in some way, on somebody else's dime. Stick it to the man -- or be the man.