Older wraps up her trilogy of near-future thrillers (Null States, 2017, etc.) that focus on the influence of news on politics.
Five years after the last election, micro-democracy—a global system in which every centenal, or area of 100,000 people, votes on a policy-based, not location-based, governing party—is once again under threat as a new election looms. Micro-democracy is operated by Information, an organization which both manages the communication infrastructure and disseminates all data, gathered through constant surveillance and analysis. Attacks on Information data transfer stations, the disappearance of many Information employees (probably to null states outside of the micro-democratic system), a newly discovered underground tunnel of unknown purpose, strangely targeted election ads, and a rising tide of locally sourced data suggest that one or more factions are plotting to overthrow or at least compete with the monolithic Information. Various characters affiliated with Information—Maryam, a “techie”; Mishima, an assassin and spy–turned–reluctant politician; Mishima’s inexperienced but game new assistant, Amran; and the heavily pregnant analyst Roz—seek the source of these incidents. In the process, they wonder: Can Information be saved? And more importantly, should Information be saved? As in the previous two entries, Older here grapples directly and clearly with contemporary issues while tying up the loose ends in a believable way. The novel asks the questions we need to ask today—how do we know a source of information (small-i) is telling us the truth? Is it safer to believe a larger, more established, but possibly hidebound and biased organization or a smaller, more nimble group that might be more sensitive to local context and concerns but almost certainly also has its own agenda?—but doesn’t pretend to answer them. At least Older’s world shows one significant advance: Many of the major players are women and are a fairly diverse group overall.
Satisfying as a novel, anxiety-inducing as a comment on our society.