Eliot Peper’s novel Bandwidth is a global technothriller that pits the barons of a world-spanning networking monopoly against the hydrocarbon barons who’ve manipulated the world’s politics to let them go on boiling the world in its own emissions, and the lobbyists and shadowy resistance fighters who play them off against each other.
The story’s hero is Dag, orphaned by climate disaster, raised in brutal foster homes, and then risen to ascendancy as one of the world’s hottest young lobbyists, the man who helped a climate wrecker arrange to have the firefighters abandon southern California to its wildfires in order to land billions in refugee housing contracts and who is now poised to help the same oil baron repel a last-ditch global effort to impose a steep carbon tax.
Dag also reps the world’s leading network monopolist, a company that mixes patrician civic duty to the internet’s users with anticompetitive ruthlessness, making it both the world’s trusted connectivity provider and the only game in town for most of its customers.
Dag might just go on this way, serving as a trusted court sorcerer to the unimaginably wealthy and powerful, but then he is drawn into a secret cabal of resistance fighters — a cult of personality that has done the impossible, hacked into the network, hijacked the feeds of the world’s power-brokers and manipulated them into slowly but surely backing the planet away from an extinction-level event.
Peper does a fabulous job depicting power and its trappings and giving a sense of super-powerful, super-competent sociopaths, who, despite all their ability to will to power, are simultaneously groping around in the dark, getting lucky, substituting brute force and absolute immorality for cunning and prescience, and steering the human race over a cliff as they do so.
It’s a fine science fiction novel that grapples with power, consent, manipulation, equity, duty and friendship, where no one is entirely irredeemable and even the heroes need redemption.
Bandwidth [Eliot Peper/47North]
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