Volume 25, Number 01, Fall, 2007

Infoquake

By David Louis Edelman

Pyr Books, 2006, $15.00
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
September 2007

David Louis Edelman's debut novel, Infoquake, the first book in a planned trilogy called Jump 225, falls into that obscure subgenre of sf—the business novel. Other books certainly bring up elements of the business world, but Infoquake devotes itself almost entirely to the life and blood of business, its ideas, foundations, and people. This includes focusing on the owner as the driving force of the company, key employees and their “I’d quit any day now as this non-stop schedule is driving me mad, but I need the money” lives, and competitors and government agencies honing in on start-ups in the dog-eat-dog world of the so-called free market.

Figuring out Edelman’s angle in terms of the free market is not an easy task. Is the novel pro or con? The businessmen are ruthless, even the protagonist is not above trickery. The products, however, succeed only if they’re better than what the competition produces, and government market distortion is minimal. The ostensible world government in general does little, but threats of retaliatory action are never far away. A key plot element of the novel sees this government and its leaders intimidate and possibly kill people who have committed no apparent crime. The words “libertarian” and “radical libertarian” make frequent appearances in the text, and often in favorable contexts, but are hardly defined or expanded upon. Individuals can contract with private government-like entities who provide protection, and give customers the option of paying via taxation or other means. As a fall-back, there’s an ever-present ├╝ber-government that can supersede these more benign entities.

The novel’s protagonist, Natch, whose ego is matched only by his need to prove himself to the world as a brilliant person, creates a major software corporation virtually from scratch. He claws himself upward quite rapidly and ruthlessly, attracting the attention of competitors and other major players. Hired by a prominent client to front a radical new product, he becomes an instant target. To complicate matters, Natch has a long tail of enemies that he built up from childhood, and several of these are quite powerful and bear years worth of grudges.

A study in drive and power, Infoquake shows the drive and need behind the rise of new corporations. It’s not an uncritical look at the operations of the free market, but then no system is perfect and no system should be free of criticism or given a free pass. In some cases the need to succeed and state one’s success to the world overwhelms individuals, just as power corrupts. Often, a quick rise to the top in business can make someone both more and less than human—this person becomes a legend for whom people sacrifice all but their lives. Edelman’s story no doubt will continue to evolve and improve with subsequent novels in the trilogy, yet Infoquake remains a raw and fascinating novel, with a fast pace and and nifty economic themes.

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