By Rob Krakoff
Review by Harriet Hart
Rob Krakoff’s latest book is a futuristic novel that begins in 2099 when disenfranchised youth are waging a cyber war against their elders who own 83% of the planet’s wealth. Elders, equipped with computational innovations to keep them alive, live in comfortable charter cities while Gen, Computer Generation, is relegated to squatter cities lacking basic necessities such as sanitary systems. Criminals and deviants inhabit the void lands. Androids, created as simple mechanical robots, evolved into reasoning machines programmed to serve the elders, and are hated by humans because of their abilities.
Thus the author sets the stage for a battle to determine who will prevail – the selfish elders or the disenfranchised youth. He chooses to tell the tale by using four narrators: Park, the computer hacker, Brenda, an elder married to Clem, their android servant Andre and Alexander, an employee of the Royal Bank of Scotland who is the same age as the Com Gen hackers but has chosen to work for the establishment.
At the outset Park and his hacker army are engaged in a hack attack, targeting key leaders of S.E.N.I.L.E., the elder movement, hacking into their brains to plant subliminal messages. Clem is targeted and becomes conscious of having too many possessions; Brenda is alarmed at the change in his thinking; his loyal android Andre removes the chip against orders and is banished to the void lands where he falls in with a bad bunch. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh Alexander is hired by the richest man on earth, Pablo Corazon, to infiltrate the Com Gen movement and put a stop to bank hacking.
A summit meeting is planned in Madrid where representatives from S.E.N.I.L.E. and the Com Gen generation are to meet for peace talks. Clem is chosen to attend, as is Park who represents the Nairobi Com Gen Base; Alexander is ordered to assassinate Clem; Brenda’s feminine instincts tell her that Clem may be in danger and sends Andre the Android in disguise to protect him, and author Krakoff skillfully brings things to a climax worthy of The Bourne Conspiracy.
This novel is a great read for many reasons. Krakoff describes the global society of the future with relish: “Times have changed the world; governments have all but vanished and the modern military-industrial complex is now driven by banks…” There is global drought, dried up rivers, wild fires burning and populations on the move as coastal cities are flooded by rising sea waters. The plot marches forward relentlessly.
But what’s best about Dream Hackers is its moral depth. At the beginning everyone is motivated by self interest but gradually the four narrators develop in complexity. Is our species driven by greed and the desire to live forever or can we exhibit courage and compassion? Ironically, Andre the machine says it best: “My programming is simple; I am here to serve. But there is so much more to celebrate about life…the vast knowledge of the world, appreciation of culture, awareness of the sciences, being around humans, animals, nature…to view and accept the beauty of life is its own reward.”
Krakoff has penned an entertaining novel depicting a bleak future for our planet, but makes us shake our heads in sorrow, laugh and feel tiny twinges of hope. Copies are available for $200 pesos at Diane Pearl’s Collection on Colon or on Kindle for $4.99.
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