Saturday, August 2, 2014

W.B.’s Book Report: The Beam, Season Two

A mere 83 years from now, nanobots in your bloodstream can help you live young and vibrant well past your 100th birthday, and immersive computer technology can deposit you into a reality so real you can’t tell if it is. Ri-ight.

Well, why not? Eighty-three years ago in 1931, movies barely knew how to talk and the most advanced electronic device in most homes was a radio. How far we’ve come – and how far we are going.

But the vision of the future and its toys are not what makes good science fiction. It’s the stories about the people who live in that vision and play with its toys. Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant are great storytellers.

What they have created is a world where, much like today, the devices are more advanced than ever but the same old barbarism lurks in the human heart. We never manage to keep up. Humanity is still divided between those who want to earn their living and those who want the good life handed to them as a right. In the Beam World there are still those who believe they know better and deign to manipulate us into shape, with tools more capable than ever of making it so, while keeping the best of the good life for themselves. And in 2097 the manipulators still offer us a non-choice of two parties that appear, after scratching not too far below the surface, to be not as different from each other after all.

In this second book in the Beam World series (actually the third, counting the “non-fiction” book Plugged by “Sterling Gibson”), the all-important shift is about to occur, as North Americans prepare to make the once-every-six-years choice between belonging to the party of producers or the party of slackers. An intriguing cast of characters – most of them introduced in Season One – continues to move themselves (and us) toward a greater understanding of the past, present and future of this system, which appears more and more to be more fragile than The Powers That Be believe it to be. This Shift is clearly going to be different from what has happened before.

Unlike the first Beam book, which (I felt) stopped arbitrarily in the middle of the story, The Beam II builds to a wealth of fascinating revelations, introduces new mysteries, and generally drops our cast into deeper doo as they unravel the mysteries just as it’s all about to unravel.

I felt frustrated at the end of the first book, having traveled a long distance to reach an ambiguous destination. But you notice I kept reading, and I encourage my fellow readers to do the same. It may take two books to reward your patience, but the rewards are there, with a promise that even bigger things await.

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