Are you ready for this… the longest blurb of ever.
In the future, the Beam network has taken over our lives — but now, it’s developing a life of its own.
The year is 2097. North America has become the North American Union — the only place on Earth not decimated by the environmental catastrophes of the 2020s. To protect citizens during the technological renaissance, the NAU erected the Lattice: an impervious net to keep the so-called “Wild East” at bay. That was when the NAU began to regrow as a cyperpunk utopia … ordystopia, depending on where you stand.
Today, the NAU appears to be divided into two political parties: the socialist Directorate and the capitalist Enterprise. But within secret circles, the true division of NAU power and wealth is more apparent: there is the Lower 99 Percent, who rely on The Beam to entertain and connect the nationwide hive mind … and there is the Beau Monde, who control it.
Meet Micah and Isaac Ryan: Figureheads of power, pawns within a greater game
For the Lower 99, the choice between Enterprise and Directorate is simple. They can choose the security of Directorate: fed, sheltered, and provided-for by the government … but unable to advance beyond their assigned (and modest) station. Or they can choose the potential and risk of Enterprise, where a few entrepreneurs and artists thrive, but many more die in the gutters without a safety net.
Micah heads the Enterprise party, blessed with family wealth that grew from rumored unsavory practices during the dystopian years. Isaac heads the opposing Directorate — just as wealthy, just as enhanced with restricted Beam-interfacing upgrades much better than those widely believed to exist.
But both of the Ryan brothers ultimately serve an inner circle, with strings pulled from high above.
Meet Kai Dreyfuss: A prostitute assassin with aspirations to join the Beau Monde, harboring a cortex full of dangerous secrets.
Kai is eternally young, eternally beautiful, her add-ons suited to her dual careers in pleasure and espionage. Kai would do anything to ascend to the secret club she’s learned is above her pay grade … and her connection to Nicolai Costa (the power behind Isaac Ryan) gives her an unfair advantage.
Meet Leah: A girl with no last name, no past, and a hacker’s mind in the body of a luddite.
Not everyone loves the hyperconnectivity of The Beam, although few are immune to its influence. Leah (young, dreadlocked, with a penchant for disobedience) lives a pair of lives between the Organa settlement that eschews technology and plots to disrupt the network … and her prodigious ability to see behind The Beam’s AI to the intelligence growing within it.
And meet Doc Stahl: A biological upgrades dealer who knows too much.
So far, the Beau Monde has kept its secrets under wraps and the true breadth of its power hidden. But Thomas “Doc” Stahl has stumbled into a place he shouldn’t be and seen things he’s forbidden to see. There are upgrades on the market far superior to those he’s been allowed to sell — and interests out there who are prepared to kill to protect their secrets.
But Shift is coming …
The Enterprise and Directorate parties have always given people an identity … and a “them” to resent so the true power balance can remain hidden. In the past, the chance for citizens to change their party (or stay in the same) for the next six years at Shift has been routine. But this year, the air is different. Riots are blooming. And this Shift promises to be anything but ordinary.
The Beam is part hard science fiction, part political thriller, part heart-pounding cyperpunk adventure, part techno thriller. Science fiction in the footprints of Asimov, where nothing is quite what it seems.
I kind of feel like I need to review the blurb more than the actual book. In case you couldn’t tell, there’s a lot going on in this book, but I don’t think we needed quite so much of it spelled out in the blurb… it’s a little overwhelming. The world building alone (sort of post-apocalyptic, sort of dystopian, all parts awesome science fiction) should be enough to hook you though, so feel free to skim through that massive blurb and pick up this book!
Despite the large scope and cast, Platt and Truant still covered all their bases with fleshing out every element of their story, while still leaving lots that can be explored in future books/seasons in this series. This is one of those books that will make you stop and think about the possibilities involved with the development of our technology.
While I did get this book for review via NetGalley, part of me wishes I’d listened to the audiobook version instead. Just poking around Audible it looks like there is a full narrative cast. But the good news is that season two is already out!