MultiReal (The Jump 225 Trilogy)
by David Louis Edelman
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Sam Lubell
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781591026471
Date: 21 July 2008 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
MultiReal is the second book of David Louis Edelman's Jump 225 trilogy, which is cyberpunk after it grew up and graduated from business school. It features an incredibly detailed complex background, interesting (and not always likable) characters, and the grand scope and feel of the best science fiction. This is in many ways a stronger book than the first, Infoquake, a rarity among second volumes in trilogies.
Readers should start with Infoquake as MultiReal picks up right where the first volume left off. To refresh readers' memory, Pyr includes a synopsis of Infoquake (unfortunately sticking it with the appendices at the back of the current book) along with a glossary. Both are highly useful and the reader should start with these. The universe of Jump 225 is set in the far future, over 300 years after the revolt of the Artificial Intelligences and the development of bio/logics, which allows body functions to be run by software, so programmers can make a living developing programs to change people's eye color to match their flowers. There's limited and expensive teleportation, but most people use the equivalent of the Internet to project themselves into a form of virtual reality that can interact with the real reality.
[Editor's Note: If you haven't already read Infoquake, stop reading this review and run out and grab a copy, or read Ernest Lilley's review of Infoquake from our June 2006 issue (so we don't spoil it for you).]
MultiReal opens with an attempt by Borda, the head of Defense and Welfare Council (the world government), to use government troops to capture Natch, the head of the fiefcorp that has control of MultiReal, a bio/logic system that uses multiple realities to view all possible outcomes and choose what you want to happen in this reality. Natch uses this to create a minor scandal for the government. But, under the influence of the black code, which an unknown enemy inserted into his body in the first book, and an infection of MultiReal code in his bio/logic system, Natch's mental state is deteriorating. Meanwhile, Magan, Borda's second in command, is trying to take over the government, either by convincing Borda to resign or by force. With Natch in hiding and sick, much of the responsibility of running the fiefcorp falls on Jana, a business analyst who is Natch's first apprentice. She is much more ethical than Natch, and is not sure she is up to the challenge of finalizing this world-altering technology, especially when the government pulls the operating licenses of everyone else in the fiefcorp, believing Jana to be the easiest to manipulate. But Natch, whose body has been infected by the MultiReal code is able to keep control of the program, leaving the fiefcorp with nothing to produce. And then Surina is killed, and a fiefcorp apprentice is blamed. This leads to lots of politics and scheming. And Natch continues to seek answers to the question of what group infected him with the black code and with MultiReal.
Natch is an amoral character, really an anti-hero, but still charismatic, even on the printed page. The reader still feels for him, even as he manipulates everyone around him. He's more sympathetic in this book than the first, since he is clearly suffering from the black code to the point of once again turning to his old enemy for help. Jana also has a much stronger presence in this book, trying to maintain both Natch's fiefcorp and her own morality. This comes across most clearly in the debate over whether to limit the amount of MultiReal cycles a person can control (Jana's position) or whether to make them unlimited, allowing the wealthier person to win any conflicts between two users (Natch's position). The book also touches on philosophy, as Natch interacts with the leader of Creed Thassel, a religion devoted to the virtue of selfishness.
The real interesting part of the book is the backstory. Edelman has extensive appendices with an elaborate timeline of the book's past, histories of the religions and government involved, even explanations of the transportation system and dart guns. Fortunately, he does not lecture in the text, instead weaving his own invented terms and concepts into the story, like the ordinary accepted words that they would be in this future. Yes, this requires a lot of flipping to the glossary at first, but soon the reader adapts and new terms add realism.
While there is some action, most of the suspense comes from whether the fiefcorp can get MultiReal ready in time, whether Natch can forge alliances with the Congress to counter Borda's power, and whether he can fight off the incursion of the black code in his own body. There's not quite as much business infighting as in Infoquake, where we saw Natch's rise up the listings, but this is still a major part of the book, as a rival company has the rights to a limited version of Multireal technology. And there are lots of political doings as Natch allies with a libertarian rabble rouser who is head of the Congress. Multireal, and the Jump 225 trilogy, is very complex. But the rewards of reading it are very great. This is not relabeled history with sf props, not space adventure that has to be fast moving so the reader has no time to realize that the background is flimsy and motivations nonexistent. Edelman has clearly put a lot of thought into his universe, and is able to show this in ways that do not overwhelm the reader (at least outside the appendices.) This is modern-day science fiction the way it ought to be written. Very highly recommended (although readers need to start with Infoquake.)