Internet of the future weaves a tangled web
Manifestations By David M. Henley HarperVoyager, 417pp, $29.99 MANIFESTATIONS is the second instalment in a science fiction trilogy by Sydney author David M. Henley. It is set 1½ centuries in the future, years after climate change and conflict have devastated the Earth. From this chaos, a new World Union has emerged as the dominant force on the planet.
These dark ages also have wrought changes in the human species. Some people are born with extraordinary mental powers such as telepathy and telekinesis. Resented and feared, these “psis’’ face repression and exile from the World Union. Not surprisingly, a psi rebellion is always a threat.
Henley features an array of new technologies and many science fiction staples, such as mental powers and rejuvenation. His most important original contribution is the Weave, a far-sighted evolution of today’s internet and social media. The Weave tracks the activities and preferences of World Union citizens moment by moment.
They maintain a direct neural connection to the Weave through implants known as symbiots. With these, citizens can live their lives twinned to the Weave, thereby also giving up any hint of personal privacy.
The Weave projects the information and preferences it accumulates into a communitywide Will. This sense of collective intent determines not only a person’s status but also the policies of the World Union and the identity of its leader, or Prime Citizen. Aspiring politicians must be adept at manipulating community sentiment in real time, as well as anticipating and riding the waves of change that occur as people respond to local and world events with joy, anger or fear.
Citizens can take their connection to the Weave a step further through total immersion. Here the author owes a significant debt to other science fiction creations such as the Matrix movies and William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer. As in those worlds, the Weave offers a visual dimension that can be inhabited by citizens. They do so by donning a helmet that enables them to see themselves within the Weave through the eyes of a personal avatar.
This visual realm offers replicas of reality as well as fictional creations, known as fabulas, in which people can live out their fantasies. Here, as elsewhere, not all is well. Monsters and other darker forces lurk in the recesses of the Weave.
Henley’s debut novel and the first book in this series, The Hunt for Pierre Jnr, tracked the rise of an eight-year-old telepath with astonishing powers. Pierre Jnr had the capacity not only to influence everyone around him but to completely dominate them. His emergence emboldened the psis and threatened to tip the world