Child’s ploy in dystopia

The Hunt for Pierre Jnr

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ge­orge Wil­liams Ge­orge Wil­liams,

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.

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