In this futuristic thriller, a sequel to Flatline (2015), a conspiracy debunker uncovers evidence of an elite plot against the world.
In Austin, Texas, Peter Richards used to be an investigative journalist but became the victim of a conspiracy so stressful it gave him a heart attack. A mechanical heart restored his life (though he died and was revived twice more). His name was cleared, and now, 10 years later, with technology having advanced sufficiently that a robot hosts the evening news, Peter makes a living debunking conspiracies. His former news director, Cleft Duvall, who also helped expose the truth, runs a company helping people establish new identities. And Detective Skelly, who once suspected Peter of murder, has very little work to do because the Miles Cooperative keeps cities like Austin safer than the police ever did through constant electronic surveillance; homicide is no longer a category on coroner’s reports. But a couple of recent deaths look like murder to Skelly, so he keeps digging. Miles himself contacts Peter, asking him to do a story assuring people that the cooperative isn’t part of some global elite trying to enslave the world through technology. Certainly not. Peter’s and Skelly’s research projects converge on a virtual reality game called Stolen Planet whose objective is to infiltrate a secret world-threatening organization and dismantle it. Amid growing chaos in his marriage and abroad, Peter longs for the calm of the afterlife but commits himself to a dangerous course. Barney, as he did in his previous novel, keeps readers guessing with inventive twists and on edge with the paranoid atmosphere and prickliness of his characters’ interactions. For example, the vibe between Peter and his wife and some neighbors when they get together to play Stolen Planet is fascinatingly uncomfortable, both sexual and hostile. The novel also raises interesting questions about our relationship with technology and its uses and misuses, especially by those in power.
A tricky, cerebral action-filled thriller that fulfills the promise of its predecessor.