DEBUT By the year 2060, Earth's environment has declined so dramatically that strict global measures were enacted, including restrictions on breeding, forced relocations to high-density interior cities, and an end to capitalism. Now, in 2100, "the bounceback" is in full swing. The populations of Earth have traded privacy for stability, accepting constant surveillance through implants for a base level of housing and food. People can earn "strokes" for prosocial actions, such as volunteer work, which raise their social capital and allow luxury purchases, or "strikes" for antisocial behavior or language. Rubi Whiting is a poster child for the bounceback generation. A famous VR gamer, she studies to become a lawyer for the mentally ill while advocating for SeaJuve, a plan to revive the oceans and increase oxygen on Earth. Her newest legal client, Luciano Pox, while notoriously antisocial, remains an enigma. Could he be the long-feared Singularity, an AI who has achieved full autonomy? Rubi seeks balance between her passion for SeaJuve, her advocacy for Luce, her responsibilities to her father, the MadMaestro, and her fascination with her gaming archnemesis, Gimlet. VERDICT Beckett's debut is richly imagined, fast-paced climate change fiction. The predictions for our future feel shockingly real but still make one wish the virtual reality technology and the prosocial ideologies were available now. Readers will delight in the nonbinary characters, LBGTQ relationships and identities, and the land acknowledgment statement at the end of the book. Highly recommended.—Jennifer Beach, Longwood Univ. Lib., Farmville, VA
As this exuberant, exciting near-future yarn keeps reinventing itself, the action gets wilder and the scope wider, until the future of humankind is at stake. Though the Clawback project is beginning to rejuvenate an ecologically ruined Earth, public responsibilities are still unsettled and fluid. Cherub “Rubi” Whiting, a popular star of elaborate multiplayer virtual reality games, is excited to become a lawyer, but her first client, Luciano Pox, turns out to be difficult—and dangerous. Besides being an anti-restoration terrorist, Luciano could be a renegade AI, the dread superhuman Singularity, or an advance scout for an invasion fleet from Proxima Centauri. Meanwhile, Rubi’s father is on an obsessive hunt for the ancient oligarchs who survived Earth’s devastation and are plotting to grab power again, and Gimlet Barnes, Rubi’s rival and potential lover, is coping with her nine-year-old daughter going on a mission for the Department of Preadolescent Affairs. Each new chapter adds a different viewpoint and further information that upends reader expectations, stirring the plot in startling and wonderful ways. This delightful pinball machine of a book recalls the whiz-bang joy and gleeful innovation of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Agent: Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates. (Sept.)
“Packed with cool ideas, psychological intrigue, political conspiracy, and hard-won hope.” —Annalee Newitz
"This delightful pinball machine of a book recalls the whiz-bang joy and gleeful innovation of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"A visionary glimpse into the future" —Kirkus Reviews
"A thought-provoking and, at times, frightening peek into possibilities of the future." —Booklist
"Readers will delight in the nonbinary characters, LBGTQ relationships and identities, and the land acknowledgment statement at the end of the book. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal, Starred Review
A cerebral fusion of science fiction, mystery, and apocalyptic thriller—masterfully seasoned throughout with provocative social commentary—this intricately plotted, if sometimes cumbersome, novel from Beckett (a pseudonym for the critically acclaimed Canadian writer A.M. Dellamonica) offers up a disturbingly believable glimpse into humankind's near future.
Set in the year 2101, in a world devastated by economic and ecological collapse (thanks in part to an American president known as He Who Could Not Be Named), the story largely revolves around Cherub "Rubi" Whiting, an internationally famous virtual reality gamer and fledgling lawyer. Her current client is Luciano Pox, an accused online terrorist who could be a mastermind hacker, a malware-infested AI, an elderly human who has somehow uploaded their consciousness, or an alien scout trying to destabilize humankind before the coming of a massive invasion fleet. Meeting with the elusive Pox proves dangerous for Whiting, who must also deal with an ongoing VR feud with archenemy (and possible love interest) Gimlet Barnes as well as an infamous father who has embarked on a quest to find the mythical sanctuary of a group of billionaires who disappeared decades earlier as the world's economy was collapsing. The mystery behind Pox's identity is the obvious narrative accelerant, but the story's real fuel comes from the author's placement of backstory breadcrumbs throughout the novel. There is a lot to digest here, from humankind's obsession with social media and their almost full immersion in cyber-reality to the brutal consequences of global warming to life extension advances to the mass consumption of printed protein as one of the only viable food sources left. A thought-provoking cautionary tale that will, hopefully, compel readers to see the condition of our civilization and our planet with more clarity and understanding.
A visionary glimpse into the future—the narrative equivalent of a baseball bat to the skull.