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Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle Paperback – August 8, 2017
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"Kinetic and gripping, the plot hurtles toward an electoral climax that leaps off the page." ―NPR
"Futurists and politics geeks will love this unreservedly." ―The New York Times Review of Books
"This brilliant book is unquestionably one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history." ―The Huffington Post
"Smart, ambitious, bursting with provocative extrapolations." ―Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings
"If you always wanted to put The West Wing in a particle accelerator with Snow Crash to see what would happen, read this book." ―Max Gladstone, author of Four Roads Cross
"An inspiring book about what we frail humans could still achieve, if we learn to work together." ―Karl Schroeder
"A futuristic world with eerie parallels to current events... [an] uncanny political thriller." ―The Washington Post
"A frighteningly relevant exploration of how the flow of information can manipulate public opinion...timely and perhaps timeless." ―Kirkus Starred Review
"Older’s sparkling debut, the first full-length novel from the novella-focused Tor.com imprint, serves as both a callback to classic futurist adventure tales by the likes of Brunner and Bester and a current examination of the power of information." ―Publishers Weekly
"Micro-democracy has several things to recommend it, but the biggest strength of Older's writing is how clear-eyed she is on the fact that no system we can imagine will fix the problems of human nature, whether apathy or lust for power." ―RT Reviews
"After sweeping you into a fascinating new world, Infomocracy will leave you with helpful ideas about what's happening in this one." ―Annalee Newitz for Ars Technica
"Infomocracy has the slick language of Snow Crash, the complex global politics of Persona, and the chaotic storytelling of Moxyland. It’s bold as hell and never boring, practically dizzying." ―Lightspeed
"Good science fiction delves not just into explorations of technology and the limits of human innovation, but the political implications of same, and Infomocracy does that extremely deftly." ―XOJane
"With roots in noir and heels firmly planted in the present, Infomocracy shows a world that really isn’t too different from today. Malka Older has created a thrilling, breakneck novel with fully human characters. And it asks tough questions." ―Electric Literature
"It’s a rare thing to find a book that accurately captures the mundane and insidious absurdity of politics, but Infomocracy gets it absolutely right. " ―B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
"Older's universe is fascinating, with its believable if cynical view of how politics might evolve in the information age. The pace is brisk with enough action for fans of political thrillers, but with plenty of futuristic touches for sf lovers." ―Library Journal
"Science fiction for election nerds and for media geeks. I highly recommend it." ―BookRiot
About the Author
MALKA OLDER is a writer, humanitarian worker, and Ph.D. candidate at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations studying governance and disasters. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than eight years of experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to complex emergencies and natural disasters in Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali.
Infomocracy is Malka Older's first novel.
Top customer reviews
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I've never tried so hard to like a book. I kept putting Infomocracy away and coming back to it, hoping the problems that bugged me so much would get fixed by some twist in the story, and I would feel foolish for being so critical.
It's an interesting take on what a future global democracy might look like. The interesting premise was less and less able to keep me interested as the book went on.
Infomocracy reads like its own fan fiction. All the characters are so cool, smart, and sexy, they feel like Mary Sues, not like actual people. Mishima, the main protagonist is the coolest and smartest of all. Copious time is spent telling you how smart she is, how she does work no one else can do and her peers are jealous of her. Need someone to write some code or rip through a speadsheet? Mishima's on it. Need someone to fight a bunch of mercenaries with swords and flamethrowers? (Seriously, I'm not making this up.) Mishima's on that too. She stays in exclusive hotels only "interesting" people are allowed to stay in, but finds the people there dull. She is flawless. Her one "flaw" that is sometimes referred to as her "disability/superpower" in the end seems to be all superpower. One chapter leaves you with the impression that she might actually screw up, and some character development might actually have to happen, but all problems are quickly reversed in the next few pages, and the cool sexiness resumes. I could go on. I repeatedly highlighted the ridiculous things said about Mishima as the book went on, but my review would become very long and probably full of spoilers.
Then there's Mishima's love interest, Ken. I started calling him Ken Doll about 2/3 of the way through. He's an accessory to make Barbie look even cooler. That's really enough said about Ken.
Small spoiler alert: I kept waiting for some twist, some combination of Snow Crash/Bladerunner/The Matrix. I was expecting (hoping?) the story to be that these characters didn't seem real, because in fact they were not real people. They must be simulations, clones, or some sort of idealized fantasy projection of themselves in a future gone horribly wrong. I won't give anything away, but I will tell you no such twist ever comes. The characters are just wish fulfillment for people who want to imagine a world where office workers are super heroes.
If that sounds fun to you, this book might be enjoyable. If you want flawed, believable characters, maybe an anti-hero or two, stay away.
Unfortunately, the book left a lot to be desired. A large cast of "main" characters in diverse places and roles were difficult to keep track of; likewise, their connections to each other, when established, seemed forced or rushed.
The plot itself seems to rely wholly on the concept of microdemocracies and technology, which wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for the poor way this system is described. Details of how it emerged, how it functions, and what it means for politics aren't really explored to the fullest extent possible.
The story moves at an odd pace overall, sometimes going so quickly as to gloss over key details and at other times slowing down to dawdle on seemingly insignificant moments.
Overall, I had much higher hopes for this book than what was delivered. Perhaps someone will explore this idea again with greater attention to world-building and creating compelling and dynamic characters.
I'm really ambivalent about it. There are huge gaps, begging to be filled in this book that could have made it an epic story, that didn't get touched. It felt almost like a dissertation about the concept of microdemocracy, into which a few characters and events were dropped.
It wasn't bad, or boring. But lacking in texture and background. A bit flat.
This book presents a quandary in reviewing: Do the story & idea positives outweigh the difficulties of the narrative style & details of the writing?
On balance, I say about 51% in the negative. (Challenges slightly outweigh positives.)
As other reviewers have described, the first 40+% of the book will be a hard slog, because the author simply drops you into an in-process story, with lots of new words & ideas, none of which are explained in a traditional narrative way. You simply must endure them, not understanding, until you either a) go find a Goodreads review that explains it all (which I did, which kept me from abandoning the book), or b) be patient enough to slog through until you pick it all up be dint of long-term familiarity.
Once you endure this first 40%, the story becomes a fairly fast paced future political / whodunit story that can be consumed with ease.
Despite the newfound ease, though, the ending sputtered a bit for me. Lots of ideas & possibilities about motivations of many antagonists come out in the last 5%, and the book ends *basically* telling you which one was the bad actor - but also left me wondering if there were threads / machinations I missed in the end. I had to re-read that last 5% to make sure I knew who the ultimate culprits were, yet I'm still slightly wondering about the other ideas introduced, and left hanging, at the end.
Broadly across the book, concepts & tech were nicely new & novel, but came with roughness that I don't think was necessary.
It feels like the author was using this difficult narrative style in a "You must earn the right to like my book" stance that I found self-indulgent and irritating.
So, ideas & story slightly outweighed by the author's vainglorious style.
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