MultiReal by David Louis Edelman

(2008-07-15)

Published by Pyr
July 2008
ISBN 978-1-59102-647-1
460 Pages
Author Web site: www.davidlouisedelman.com

David Louis Edelman returns to his rich future history in MultiReal, the second book in the Jump 225 trilogy. The question is, has he done it again - has Edelman written an enthralling, superlative science fiction novel? The answer is, yes he’s continued to weave an intricate future history that parallels our own in many ways. While the technology may be more advanced than what we see today, the issues surrounding the technology are very much similar to the issues surrounding freedom of thought and speech today. The technology under scrutiny, first introduced in Infoquake is MultiReal – a bio/logics simulation that allows one to work through all possibilities until they find one that suits them best. It is a powerful program that can give the user nearly godlike (or perhaps demonic) powers.

In MultiReal Edelman switches gears slightly, focusing less on Natch and more on those around him. Specifically Jara, the analyst who was part of Natch’s fiefcorp in Infoquake, is the character who takes center stage here. She doesn’t so much take top billing as she shares it; as a result of the events of Infoquake, Jara is now appointed the head of the Surina/Natch MultiReal Fiefcorp. Of course this sets up all sorts of problems – can Jara be trusted to run the Fiefcorp? What about Natch? As a result, Edelman focuses much of the character development of the novel on Jara. At times she comes across annoying and out of sorts, but what is most important is that Edelman gives her balance and makes her seem very real. Where Natch was very headstrong regardless of consequences, Jara approaches things differently. She battle sin her head between doing what Natch would do in specific situations and what she feels is right – the two aren’t always the same and she wants to avoid being the tyrant that Natch was. She may not be the most likeable character, but she is very convincing and really comes into her own through her actions, words, and thoughts.

So where does that leave Natch? On the run from the government (the Defense and Wellness Council who appointed Jara), his corporate enemies, crossing the country in a soul-searching mission and attempting to remove the deadly black code that was injected into him. Clearly, our hero is quite the busy one. For all that’s going on with Natch, he takes a step back while still being a central character. A lot of the groundwork Edelman laid in constructing Natch’s character in Infoquake is paying off in dividends here – elements of his past continue to inform him and shape him. That having been said, Edelman provides the right amount so that MultiReal is accessible to both new readers and those who’ve been along for the ride since the Infoquake hit.

In parallel contrast to the protagonists, Edelman’s focus on the antagonists takes a bit of a switch. In Infoquake, the head of the Defense and Wellness Council Len Borda proved to be Natch’s greatest opponent. Here too, the nemesis is now Borda’s successor Magan Kai Lee. I like how Edelman charted Lee’s sinister growth in this novel, much as he charted Jara’s growth into her role as head of the fiefcorp. Like Natch, Borda isn’t as strong a player in this novel.

Readers who are looking for a continuation of Natch’s story may be disappointed and Edelman’s shift in focus from Natch to his supporting characters and the grander scale could be considered a risky move. Great writers try to keep their readers guessing and be more than a one trick pony – such is the case for Edelman since this "risk" has paid off, I think, because it shows the natural evolving nature of the characters, the Jump 225 world and fast-paced nature of business and technology. Much of the action of the novel takes place in about a week’s time, so things are moving fast, they are evolving fast – almost too fast for any of the characters to keep pace.

With the characters and world established, Edelman adds some brushstrokes to give both further depth. However, the established details allow him to explore more ethical elements of his world and its powerful technology. Here, like the best science fiction and fantasy, Edelman uses MultiReal as a mirror for our current society and its fears. A great deal of the story focuses on the inherent freedom such a powerful technology allows for the individual user, and the responsibility those who hold the power have to keep it out of the hands of those (the Defense and Wellness Council) who could potentially use this power to exert their own autocratic rule.

As the details and implications technology of MultReal continued to be fleshed out in the novel, the way in which the characters spoke about it was as if it could allow one to be a god. It could allow a person to create the world they want, have events play out to their wants. This notion of playing God reminds me of some of the ethical implications of technology and science can be seen in some of the earliest science fiction novels and the one of which I find myself drawing parallels to is the classic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Granted, Dr. Frankenstein was playing God to one creature, but the implications of his actions can be paralleled to the development of the MultiReal technology. It raises the question: is Natch playing at God? It is an audacious question, but considering the heights to which Natch has so quickly soared, it might be an appropriate one, too.

Another important element is the Data Sea, which is basically Edelman’s extrapolated internet/cyberspace. With bio/logics part of nearly every human, instantaneous connection to the Data Sea is like having a link to cyberspace in your blood stream. The infoquakes that first emerged in the previous volume continue to plague the Data Sea in MultiReal, killing people and disrupting the world.

MultiReal is on the par with the previous volume for Edelman’s ability to change the game a bit and still maintain what made Infoquake such a great novel, his growth as a writer is most evident in the characters themselves. If anything, MultiReal may be a bolder novel because of the risk Edelman took in character focus and perhaps more audacious in laying out the implications of the technology. MultiReal is also not a ‘treading water middle book’ of a trilogy, as my review hopefully indicates, it really drives home much of what Edelman was setting up in the first volume and leaves the reader eager for the next volume. David Louis Edelman has crafted another winner with MultiReal that ends on a relaxed note - the breath before the plunge. I’ve a feeling the old adage of ‘it’s calmest before the storm’ will be true once GeoSynchron arrives; I for one can’t wait to see where Edelman takes the conclusion of this [thus far] spectacular trilogy.

© 2008 Rob H. Bedford

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