Volume 15, Number 01, Winter, 1997


By John DeChancie

(Avonova 0-380-78108-5 $5.99, 249pp, pb)
July 1996. Cover by Thomas Canty
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
January 1997

Futurists are quick to point to nanotechnology as a benefit to mankind. What could be better than tiny, smart machines capable of patrolling the internals of the human system, tailor-made to seek out and destroy viruses, repair damage, and generally improve life? Of course, if such machines do good, why can’t they do evil? It isn’t the technology that’s good or bad, but the people that use it.

DeChancie, perhaps best known for his Castle Perilous books, examines the possibilities of nanotech as a means to control people. While Innerverse presents no libertarian program, it argues convincingly against those who seek to control the lives of others, no matter how good their intentions.

The early 21st Century sees America split in two. The eastern seaboard has for decades maintained a rigid silence in all communications. All attempts at infiltration by the other two-thirds of the country—embroiled in war with the Mayan Empire of Mexico—have failed.

Enter Frank Sutter, a Special Forces agent tired of the war, but looking for other ways to serve his nation. Dropped deep into the heart of the secretive ‘Republic,’ he quickly discovers the reason for silence. All the inhabitants are juiced with a drug called ‘Innerverse,’ which forces them to be happy and obey the law. If they refuse, either to smile or obey, they suffer sharp pains administered by Innerverse. Sutter discovers this fact when he is informed, waking up from a hospital after his glider crashed, that he now has Innerverse.

Sutter’s goal is now not just to seek information, but to stay alive and survive the pain of Innerverse. His ensuing struggles team him up with a young girl apparently immune to the drug fleeing the authorities, they are forced deep into the heart of the Republic, into the hands of the people behind the drug and control.

The novel is a gritty read, yet seems to present only negative arguments. Even some of these are weak, and while DeChancie tells an eerie tale of one more tyranny that demands eternal vigilance, you care in the end little for the characters. There is mystery and excitement, but also a certain hollowness.

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