Right off the bat, let me just say that David Louis Edelman's Infoquake just might be one of the very best science fiction debuts I have ever read. The book deserves all the praise it has garnered, and then some! Only rarely will a debut author produce the sort of work which habitually comes from celebrated veterans.
As the blurb implies, Infoquake takes speculative fiction into uncharted waters: the corporate boardroom of the future. And as such, Edelman's debut is truly unique in its approach. Technological advancements such as virtual reality and cybernetic enhancements have become staples in the genre. And yet, with David Louis Edelman's professional background in programming, software development, and marketing, the author's take on the technology and its cutthroat marketplace feels extremely genuine. Edelman brings a fresh vision to "old" ideas and clichés, which makes Infoquake something special.
Natch, the main protagonist, is a master of bio/logics -- the science of using programming code to extend the capabilities of the human body and mind. Unscrupulous and competitive to a fault, Natch managed to fight his way to the top of the bio/logics market. His sometimes questionable tactics have made him many enemies along the way. Nevertheless, the stellar rise of the Natch Personal Programming fiefcorp brought Natch to the attention of Margaret Surina, the creator of the mysterious new technology known as MultiReal. Ostensibly, Surina appears to have enlisted Natch's devious mind to keep MultiReal out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and the Defense and Wellness Council. But events hint at a hidden agenda of her own. With enemies closing in on all sides, Natch and his team must accomplish an impossible feat; understand this strange new technology, run it through the product development stages, and have MultiReal ready for public release -- all in a matter of a few days. Hanging ominously over their colossal endeavor is the menace of the infoquake, the lethal burst of energy disrupting the bio/logics networks and threatening the integrity of the entire world.
Natch is an anti-hero and a bit of a nut job, all of which makes him an unpredictable character. Contrary to a majority of scifi yarns, its the characterization which carries Infoquake forward. Though Natch is a captivating character, the supporting cast is equally interesting, with characters such as Jara, Horvil and Quell. I'm really looking forward to learning more about each of them in the two sequels. . .
The worldbuilding is another enthralling facet of this novel. Similar to Frank Herbert's Dune, a massive machine vs mankind conflict known as the Autonomous Revolt brought civilization on the brink of destruction in the past. Edelman's story occurs a few centuries following the human race's Reawakening, in a disturbingly realistic future. The author has created a richly detailed universe. But instead of relying on info dumps throughout, Edelmen elected to include a number of appendixes at the end of the book. In addition, there seems to be a wealth of information available on http://www.infoquake.net/.
Ambitious, vast in scope, with a deftly executed plot and impeccable prose from start to finish, David Louis Edelman's Infoquake is a fascinating read. 2006 was one of the best years in memory in terms of impressive speculative fiction debuts. Had I read it when it was originally released, Infoquake would have trumped Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon, Brian Ruckley's Winterbirth, and Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself.
The final verdict: 8/10