In­ter­net of the fu­ture weaves a tan­gled web

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ge­orge Wil­liams

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

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