With so much mass-media science fiction featuring anti-science heroes who battle to stop science from "going too far," it's great to read a really smart novel about a hero who's fighting to save scientific progress from being suppressed. David Louis Edelman's Multireal, the second volume in the trilogy that begins with Infoquake, is a welcome cure to the Fringe/Eleventh Hour science-bashing, even though it presents both the pro- and con- arguments about radical progress. But Multireal is also way more entertaining than the science bashers. Spoilers below. I've seen Edelman's Infoquake/Multireal/GeoSynchron trilogy described as a business story set in the future, which is true but does it a bit of a disservice. Certainly, there's a lot of business wrangling, including cut-throat competition and product launches and all the rest, and at its best it reminds me of my favorite biz books, like Skin Tight: The Bizarre Story Of Guess vs. Jordache. But the more the story progresses, especially in the new second volume, the less it's about licensing deals and the more it's about the nature of technological progress.
In the world of the "Jump 225 trilogy" (I've read the first two books, and still have no clue what "Jump 225" refers to), there's been a robot uprising that nearly killed humanity. Humans finally bounced back and lived through a dark ages of technological fallowness. (I feel as though I read another book recently that took place after an A.I. uprising, where A.I.s were banned but biotech was allowed. Am I on crack, or is this a theme?) So in Edelman's future world, there's no A.I., but a new science has developed instead. The science of bio/logics enables humans to install nano-powered subroutines into their own bodies, enhancing their own capabilities. So it's basically a post-human world: the Singularity without A.I. Into this heavily (but sloppily) regulated world comes a huge new breakthrough, "Multireal." Its nature and mechanisms remain a bit obscure even after two volumes, but in a nutshell, it extends your personal potential into the realm of choosing between alternate versions of the same future event. So if you throw a ball, you can choose among every possible trajectory the ball could go on, and pick the one that pleases you most. If you're in a business negotiation, you can choose the negotiating tack that gets the best result. (And that's one of the things that confuses me about the technology, since it can apparently predict other people's actions with a surprising degree of confidence.) Whoever possesses this technology can become virtually unstoppable, so the Defense and Wellness Council will go to any lengths to suppress it, including murder and dirty tricks. The champion of the new technology winds up being an entrepreneur named Natch, who has a shady past and a willingness to step on anyone who gets in his way, including his own friends. Despite being a crafty operator, and possessing unique access to the MultiReal program which allows him to see all the angles, Natch still winds up being manipulated by a lot of other players behind the scenes, and a lot of the second book involves Natch trying to untangle all of the many puppet strings jutting from his back. What was a story about business dealings in the first book becomes much more of a spy thriller about different factions in the government and secret organizations all fighting for control over MultiReal. Where MultiReal really shines, however, is in the debates over the ethics of this reality-twisting software. world-bulding and characters