The Future is ON by Joel Smith
I very much enjoyed this book, but it seems to me, (and maybe only me), that you have to read a “quantum-speculative-cyberfi” book differently than you would a traditional, or normal, novel. I’m a huge fan of writers like Hannu Rajaniemi, (“The Quantum Thief”), and everyone else who tries to predict the electronic, cyber and social media future and who tries to translate quantum principles and theories into “sciencey” plot points.
The basic thrust here is that humans are moving from wireless headsets connected to the grID, their current reality of choice, to neural implants that completely tie them in to a hive mentality. (This is what it means to be ON through One Network.) The question is, what will this do to any human sense of past and future, as opposed to the purely now. Additionally, what becomes of reality, individuality, free will, privacy, moral responsibility, and the like. It’s a dystopian, (or utopian, depending on your point of view), variation and elaboration on where we are now. The author sweetens, and confuses, the deal with a few other lines.
In addition to humans the world is populated by rooins, who are completely sentient robots with equal civil rights. Since humans are Darwinian, (evolutionary chance), and rooins are Lamarckian, (each new generation acquires improvements made to the prior generation), there is fear that rooins are outpacing humans developmentally. (BTW, they are.)
On top of that, and this may be the bridge-too-far that has lost some readers, all of this is destabilizing the boundaries of space-time and there are disturbances at the quantum level. I like this fluffy goofy pseudo-quantum stuff, but if you don’t like playing along then it could easily get old.
We also get a huge cast of characters, and a murder mystery, but that seems to be there so the main characters can go places and do things, and it would probably be a mistake to go into this thinking it’s just a futuristic mystery thriller.
What it mostly is, though, is a thought experiment World’s Fair. Remember those fairs and expos in the 60’s and 70’s, (New York, Montreal), that showed us that the future is now? Jetsons cars and color TV and Dick Tracy wristphones? Well, that’s sort of what you get a tour of here. Every page, (I mean that almost literally), mentions or includes or describes some odd futuristic electronic, social, communications wrinkle. Almost none of them have anything to do with the story, but when all is said and done they really are the story. As we follow the characters, everything they eat, drink, see, hear, wear, or talk about or talk into, is next-level stuff. It’s all wild but plausible. It’s the next-gen extension of what we have now. And it’s all just a little twisted, or dark, or dehumanizing, or pointless, or meaningless.
So, this author has a firm grasp on the world he sees. He writes, and describes, great main characters and pretty interesting supporting and incidental characters, which helps to put the vision in context. He doesn’t miss the little details that sell this sort of world building. Plot and resolution? Not so much. But, as I say, it seems you have to read these novels a bit differently.
So, are you ON?