After 21st-century wars and catastrophes ravage Earth, the omnipotent multiplanetary corporation Marsco assumes control—but forces within and outside the company plot its downfall.
First-time author Zarzana brings to bear an academic background in this hefty start to his planned sci-fi series, a compulsively readable future history detailing a catastrophic 21st century and the political, economic and social pathologies that leave beaten-down humanity dominated by a callous one-world (one solar system, really) corporate empire. In the 2090s, billions have died as a result of decades of wealth inequality, global resource wars, pandemics, climate change and backsliding scientific ignorance. Enter Marsco (est. 1999), a giant software/IT/space travel monopoly, possessing some of the less savory aspects of Microsoft and the Union Pacific Railroad. Based in Seattle, Marsco remained largely untouched during mankind’s darkest days; using cyberwarfare and conventional weapons, the company technocrats stepped in and seized Earth away from governments. The ruthless corporation has barely improved life on Earth. PRIMS, a vast, war-displaced peasant class, live in backward squalor, while elite castes are marked by Marsco finger-disc implants, permitting social mobility via levels of access to all-important cybernetworks. Opponents of Marsco include Walter Miller, once one of the company’s iconic engineers/innovators, now dwelling amid PRIMS as a high-profile dissident; defeated nationalist leaders and warlords left older but no wiser thanks to cryogenic stasis; and savage, cultish Luddites composed mainly of rebel PRIMS. Zarzana’s story—short on action, dialogue-heavy, but seldom hectoring or pedantic—recalls early Heinlein, without quite so much faith in altruistic, laissez-faire capitalist heroes coming to the rescue. The scale of Zarzana’s imagination is practically Asimov-ian, though one suspects he has many other wonders unrevealed behind the curtain; we never enjoy a tour of Marsco’s actual Martian HQ, for instance. But there’s still plenty ahead and plenty to look forward to in upcoming volumes.
Socioeconomic sci-fi on a broad canvas that reads like dire headlines from tomorrow.