Child’s ploy in dystopia
The Hunt for Pierre Jnr
By David M. Henley Harper Voyager, 410pp, $27.99
SYDNEY-BASED author and publisher David M. Henley has written a science fiction novel full of fascinating concepts and ideas. The Hunt for Pierre Jnr is set in 2159: the Earth’s climate has long gone haywire and humanity is at a crossroads.
The emergence of people with psionic powers such as telepathy and telekinesis threatens the established order. In response, a global organisation, Services, is charged with identifying, segregating and repressing the psis. Extreme measures are implemented in the hope of heading off a psi rebellion.
The focus of the novel is the hunt for an eight-year-old boy, Pierre Jnr. He has been born with unprecedented powers that allow him to take complete control of anyone around him and to erase their memory. An elite team has been assembled to track down the boy, but locating him is one thing, containing and controlling him another. If they cannot do so, there is the risk he will lead the psis from their subjugation.
Tracking Pierre Jnr is made possible by the weave, a futuristic version of the web that has come to connect humanity to an unimaginable degree. The weave is not only a repository of the world’s information but a realtime means of measuring and implementing popular will.
This affects many things, including the selection of the world’s leaders. They are chosen as an expression of that will and so are subject to its fluctuations.
As Pierre Jnr changes the world around him, the weave reacts. A catastrophic event in Paris generates mass fear and leads to a rapid change in popular will, which brings down the existing leadership and facilitates the rapid rise of anti-psi hardliners. All this occurs within hours, taking the idea of something going viral on the internet to a new level.
These ideas and an enticing premise provide a strong foundation. What the book gains in these areas, though, it sometimes loses in its execution. The writing and plotting occasionally let the novel down.
Characters chop and change, and the plot can move so quickly from one event to another that there is little room for character development.
We learn what the characters do, but sometimes without gaining a clear sense of their motivations and desires. This can make it hard for the reader to connect and empathise with them.
Despite its faults, The Hunt for Pierre Jnr is an entertaining science fiction novel. The concepts underlying the book are well realised and its fast pace maintains interest. The book is also only the start of this story: it is the first instalment of a planned trilogy, and so there is still time for the tale to live up to its potential.