What would it be like if our government was run like social media? What if we could give upvotes and downvotes to policies, cutting out the need for representatives, corruption, lobby groups and much of the other machinery above us. It would at once be absolute and instantaneous democracy, but also a wash of voices that would shift with public opinion. A government that could rise and fall at any time based on whatever idea is trending.
This is the world that psychic detective Peter Lazarus must navigate as he and a team of operatives hunt for a child with monstrous mental powers. In The Hunt for Pierre Jnr, Australian author David Henley has set out to produce a sci fi that holds a mirror up to our own world, in terms of government spying, the impulsive populism of the electorate and ever present, nebulous fear of a domestic threat (in this case, psionics). It reads like a mystery novel, or at least the first third does. Then after a devastating psychic attack, we are introduced to the machinations of the highest political office. The ripples of public opinion cause agents to go rogue, psychic rebels to unite and Faustian deals to be brokered.
It is a good read, and I would recommend it to any fans of P. K. Dick, as it has a brooding vibe akin to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and A Scanner Darkly. Henley dives right into the action and while his characterisation starts fairly thin, the reader is rewarded with some written protagonists, each with their own agency and ideas on how to thwart or profit from the psychic menace.
Despite the thrill of a psychic manhunt as the central plot, what interested me the most was Henley’s exploration of a world where the internet has become so pervasive that it is constantly reporting on us, letting our collective thoughts inform the policy of a constantly shifting world government. Too often you see sci fi authors dip into utopia or dystopia when building their worlds, but Henley’s is different. It shows a system that is no better or worse than reality, merely different. This adds a sense of reality to the setting, and one can almost believe that a hive-minded government could be awaiting us should our technology and culture contain as they are.
The Hunt for Pierre Jnr is the first in a trilogy that I am currently enjoying. Its sequels are Manifestations and Convergence. It was published by Harper Voyager and can be found on Amazon and in book stores throughout the anglosphere.