April 08, 2008
Book Review: Infoquake by David Louis Edelman
Those men and women who donít read the business pages of the newspaper or subscribe to Forbes and The Economist are unaware of just how exciting the business world can be. Many people see it as dry, dusty stuff Ė kind of like all the memorization of dates and places your teacher required of you in grade school. But the reality is far different. Scandals like the Enron debacle, advice from such folks as Warren Buffet, and tales of good works by people like Bill Gates make it into these pages. Yet very few have tried to novelize this exciting field. Anthony Trollope did it with The Way We Live Now but few others have made the attempt, except to demonize it.
David Louis Edelman has recreated the excitement of the world of business in his science fiction novel, Infoquake the first in the Jump 225 trilogy. Set in a far future, where the old nation states no longer exist and all technology is more related to biology than mechanics, Infoquake tells the tale of Natch, a master programmer and CEO of his own business. Natch is skilled, shrewd, and often unscrupulous. These are traits that serve him well in the laissez-faire world in which his business operates. When he is given a business opportunity he canít pass up he find himself plunged into a political, scientific and economic war with his competitors, the government, and even his own partner.
Edelman has succeeded in making the world of the corporate boardroom into an adventure filled narrative. What John Grisham has done with the legal thriller, Edelman has done with business. Drawing on his experiences in marketing and computer programming, Edelman has created a very thorough world, consistent and detailed. (A small portion of the book is appendices explaining the political and social structures of this trilogy, and more information on the setting of the Jump 225 trilogy can be found at Edelmanís website.)
Natch is a compelling and interesting character, enigmatic and intelligent, yet troubled and in some ways aimless. He is driven by the need to succeed, the need to vanquish his opponents, but he doesnít really know why. Edelman uses the juxtaposition of success without true direction to create Natch the character. But as the novel progresses, we learn that when Natch is given purpose, he goes all out, and when the new technology of MultiReal is placed in his hands, he does all he can to make it a success.
The unfortunate part of Infoquake is that is part of a larger trilogy, and so ends well but without any true resolution. When the story ends, Natch is actually in more trouble than when he began and the reader will have to wait for the release of the second novel MultiReal to really find out what will happen.
Some readers will find the technology of Infoquake hard to understand (hence the appendices) and it took me a while to figure out what the technology of MultiReal could do. And Edelman does not really explain the difference between the philosophy of his world (which is human-centric) and ours (which he claims is machine-centric). Both relied on machines, and I didnít really see the difference between Edelmanís version and our own.
As a businessman myself, I understood the excitement and action in the need to coordinate different factors (like marketing, competition, timing, etc.) in creating a product, but some readers may find that less than compelling. But for those readers, there is the constant shadow of government force hanging over Natchís head to add excitement to the tale, as well as, the race against the clock, since Natch and his team are forced to create a product out of whole cloth in just under three days, something that is plenty exciting enough.
Infoquake is well-written and well-cadenced. The climax is fulfilling and exciting, yet it is only a speech, and a marketing one at that. Edelman has so well woven the elements of his plot together that Natchís simple speech has a much power and excitement to it as another science fiction storyís destruction of a spaceship or a fantasyís evil overlord dying hideously at the hands of a hero. That takes skill to write, and Edelman has it in spades. I highly recommend this novel.