30th June 2008 – 8.13 am

I finished reading Infoquake, the first novel by David Louis Edelman. It is a science fiction novel following the early career of a businessman in a world where bio-engineering nanomachines augment our own biological systems through software control.

There are spoilers in the following text.

I found the author's writing style to awkward at times. A minor niggle is how characters are said to have 'prived himself to the world' on occasions, which grates because it seems to me that one removes oneself from the world, not to it. This could be a cultural difference in expression, much like the apparent reversal of 'bring' and 'take' across the pond, but it broke my flow when the phrase was used, mostly because of the use of the unfamiliar 'prived'. If a character had instead 'prived himself from the world' the meaning of 'prived' would have been easier to deduce but the use of 'to' instead effectively induced a stutter in comprehension.

Then there are the few occasions when I was forced to reread the previous sentence just to try to make sense of the writing: 'there was nothing in any direction now but endless sea. He began scrabbling for higher ground'. What higher ground? We've just been told that there is nothing but endless sea! These moments make me wonder if there is a small part of the landscape lingering in the author's mind that didn't quite make it to the page.

The flashback near the start seems contrived, where it may have been better served being recalled in smaller chunks spread throughout the earlier sections of the book where it could enhance the story more directly. As it stands, it feels like it has been shoehorned in and is initially rushed before settling in to its stride. The society woman's fall and eventual rise that concluded with her 'rescuer' falling in love with her was rather generic and better placed in a Mills & Boon novel.

The most annoying writing technique occurs when there is a sub-chapter break without there being any change of scene, viewpoint, or significant time lapse. It strikes me as being the equivalent of an advertisement break, an intentional pause inserted solely to emphasise dramatic effect. Frankly, this insults my intelligence as a reader, as I would hope I could understand the drama unfolding before me without the need for the equivalent of a musical sting and the screen fading to black.

If the author thinks the drama needs the occasional push to be functional then he had the same thoughts about the plot, sometimes putting his own words in to his characters' mouths, feeding them meta-information that is needed only to help the story along. An obvious example is near the end when one character muses to no one but the reader that 'too many loose ends need tying up', before enumerating them. To me, this reads more like the author writing 'note to self: remember to cover the following subjects in the final section'.

Where meta-information may have been better served is in one of the inconsistencies in the book that I found rather too jarring. The protagonist, Natch, is first seen trying desperately to reach the top position of an industry rankings list, Primo's. We are told, in the second chapter, that 'the Patel Brothers had dominated the number one rating on Primo's for the past two and a half years', so when Natch inevitably makes it to number one we believe it to be an extraordinary accomplishment, particularly as his company only holds on to the rating for less than an hour before the Patels retake it. But later on we are shown that several other companies take the number one rating, just as briefly, without any indication that this was just as an amazing act by any of the companies

The jostling for the top spot on Primo's makes me wonder just what Natch managed to accomplish. Was the Patel Brothers' dominance absolute, or did they occasionally lose the number one position during that two year period? In which case, did Natch really achieve something amazing, a company-defining moment, or was it just another brief glitch that already crops up occasionally? What was different about the other companies' hitting the top spot shortly afterwards that didn't warrant special mention or a novel of their own?

Without further explanation, which won't come for another hundred pages, I am merely left wondering why I bothered to care about the apparent excitement of earlier if it has already become business-as-usual a week later. At the time Natch made it to the number one ranking it would perhaps have been prudent to have him wonder if the Patel Brothers were really at the top of their game, or distracted by a big project coming up, an omen that could be repeated when the other companies take the top spot. That kind of meta-information given to the character would even be within character for an astute, world-class businessman, yet I am left scratching my head over the inconsistency at reading chapters about one man's amazing achievement but a couple of lines casually mentioning several others managing to equal it.

Despite all of these niggles the book is entertaining enough. The ideas presented within the book as being part of modern living are interesting, with the human body being the computer in which the software runs being fundamental to the world. Having software and associated nano-machines able to help people see in the dark, keep their facial composure, or regulate their systems opens up the possibilties for many intriguing ideas, although I didn't need to know the specific version of nearly all the software being used.

The science fiction satisfyingly sets the stage for the characters instead of being the object of sole interest. Within the futuristic setting we are shown one man's mission, or obsession, to be crowned the best businessman in the market and to get the respect he believes is owed that person. We see his struggles and victories, how he manages his employees, friends, and rivals, and we get an insight in to what it takes to be number one. Even with its flaws, which include the almost inconsequential nature of its title, there is plenty to enjoy in the book.

Infoquake is subtitled as 'Volume 1 of the Jump 225 Trilogy'. I'll consider picking up the second in the series when it appears, but won't drop what I will be reading to do so.

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