Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
David Louis Edelman
Pyr, 520 pages

David Louis Edelman
David Louis Edelman was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1971 and grew up in Orange County, California. He received a B.A. in creative writing and journalism from The Johns Hopkins University in 1993. Over the past ten years, Mr. Edelman has programmed websites for the U.S. Army and the FBI, taught software to the U.S. Congress and the World Bank, written articles for the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, and directed the marketing departments of biometric and e-commerce companies. He lives with his wife Victoria near Washington, DC.

David Louis Edelman Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Multireal
SF Site Review: Multireal

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Paul Kincaid

David Louis Edelman's first novel, Infoquake, suffered, as I said when I reviewed it, from a major implausibility in the structure of the world he was creating. It was an entrepreneurial world of business organisations, here known as fiefcorps, battling each other like warrior bands of old. Yet the biggest, most important corporation of all had survived as a family concern for some 360 years, each generation or so producing some new genius to unleash another technological marvel upon the world and cement their power yet more. This is just not how the world is. The British chocolate manufacturer Cadbury's is over 150 years old, a great age for any company, yet by the time it was taken over by Kraft, the Cadbury family had lost control of their own company and though they opposed the takeover they were powerless to prevent the actions of the board. If each generation of Cadbury had produced an inventor adding some new innovation to the world of sweets, they would probably have lost control of the business even sooner, since inventors tend to be poor business administrators. The long ascendancy of the Surina family in Edelman's trilogy, therefore, beggars belief.

Edelman generously acknowledged my criticism on his blog and said he would address it in the third volume. Now the third volume is here, and we can see that he has addressed part of my concern, but at the expense of making another part of my concern even more noticeable. He has dealt with the notion of a family of geniuses by suggesting that the successive innovations introduced in turn by Prengal, Marcus and Margaret Surina are all deprived from, perhaps even inherent in, the original work of Sheldon Surina. This does open the question of how someone 300 years dead can have produced work that is still new and astounding in such a fast changing technological world as this. More than that, it doesn't begin to explain how the Surinas have continued to retain control of their work and their company over so long a time. Within the course of this trilogy, for instance, Margaret Surina has gifted the family's most recent and most far-reaching innovation, MultiReal, to a buccaneering businessman with no great track record and absolutely zero reliability (our protagonist, Natch), hardly the behaviour of an astute business leader, and we also see two none-too-bright off-shoots of the Surina family go to court to gain control of the company. If this can happen within the few months covered by the trilogy, then you have to wonder how many similar episodes might have undermined or challenged the control of the Surina family over the previous 360 years.

Incidentally, I make no apologies for spending so long considering events long past before this trilogy even opens, since that is what Edelman does. Following the pattern of the previous two volumes, Geosynchron has some 60 pages of appendices, most of which are devoted to filling in the background. For a work set so far in the future, the Jump 225 trilogy seems very backward looking. The whole thing suggests a very carefully thought-out environment, a slow and patient building up of detail. Though this sense of slowness isn't always borne out by the writing, which frequently shows signs of hurry and carelessness (someone is described as "serene but not untroubled," a meeting "explodes into silence"). But in fact, away from the world-building (which, as I've said, is hardly convincing), these novels are all about rush; they are, essentially, melodramas.

There is a three-act structure that we see repeated again and again in trilogies with but minor variations: in act one you build up the protagonist, make us cheer them on, until they seem on the brink of achieving some great goal. In act two, you knock them down again, so that our investment in their success turns into identification with their troubles and a sense of tension (because this structure is necessarily downbeat, because it is an entr'acte between two more positive acts, the middle volume of trilogies is often slower and less engaging than those that bracket it). In act three, you start the protagonist's ascent once more, made to seem more tenuous because we now know what forces are arrayed against them, but also their eventual achievements are that much more worthy because they have come by overcoming troubles.

Jump 225 follows this plan perfectly. In Infoquake we saw Natch cheat and connive his way to the top in business, although we tend to forgive his many and evident transgressions because he carries it off with such swagger. He is, basically, a pirate hero, and we always tend to cheer anti-heroes in fiction so long as they are colourful and insouciant. By the end of that first volume he had got the better of Len Borda (just one of the boo-hiss villains of the piece) and was on the verge of releasing MultiReal to an eager public. Volume two, MultiReal, shifts the focus from business to politics, which inevitably puts Natch out of his depth. Thus we see the rise of Magan Kai Lee, Borda's lieutenant who seems even more power-hungry than his boss, and therefore a more formidable opponent for Natch. We see Margaret Surina dead, suicide or murder we never really know, but Natch's powerful assistant, Quell, is arrested nevertheless. We see Natch's fiefcorp taken away from him and put in the hands of his deputy, Jara, whose self-doubts put the whole enterprise at risk. And we see Natch brought to trial, a set piece that degenerates into an open fire fight from which Natch escapes only by being kidnapped by his arch-enemy, Brone (another boo-hiss villain), who is then able to get access to the secrets of MultiReal.

In the first two volumes, therefore, Natch has risen high and been knocked down flat. As this final volume opens, all the good guys are at a low ebb. (I say "good guys" advisedly; if you look at their actions, no-one in this trilogy is exactly good, Natch least of all. But these are our protagonists, the people we are encouraged to cheer for, and we naturally assume that those we cheer for are the good guys while those we hiss are the villains.) Natch himself has managed to escape from Brone's murder attempt but is disoriented and immediately finds himself imprisoned by business rivals, the Patel brothers. Quell is in an orbiting prison where the inmates literally have to fight for survival and escape is impossible. And Jara finds her fiefcorp breaking apart with no worthwhile products for the public.

In each case, our heroes begin their new ascent only thanks to an unexpected and unlikely intervention from outside. Magan Kai Lee breaks into the orbital prison in order to rescue Quell. Jara's fiefcorp is hired as consultants by the Islanders, the people of the Philippines who have deliberately remained disconnected from the Data Sea within which Sheldon Surina's bio/logics operates. Here they find Josiah, the secret son of Quell and Margaret Surina, who is on the verge of becoming the leader of his people. Most unlikely of all, Natch is simply released by the Patels, and decides to take on a new identity and hide out in the lawless Orbital Colonies. But once there, he immediately goes on a one-man crusade to clear out all the drug gangs, which he achieves with remarkable ease, as if he has abruptly become morally right and super-heroic at the same moment. All of the moral doubts surrounding Natch, who has never behaved morally to this point, are swept away in this transformation into a good guy it really is okay to cheer. Which prepares us, of course, for the redeeming sacrifice that is the climax of our tale.

As is often the case, good characters are generally less interesting than morally complex or even amoral characters; and Natch's transformation from amoral to good really does eliminate much of our fascination with the character. Which is okay, because he plays a notably smaller role in this novel than in its two predecessors, since there is a lot of melodramatic action going on that doesn't directly involve him. And Edelman has another character transformation to keep us on our toes. Do you wonder why Magan Kai Lee should rescue Quell? It's because he has suddenly stopped being the mysterious figure who looks like the super villain in waiting, and has revealed himself to be one of the good guys after all. He is now in open revolt against Len Borda, but this is no mere power grab; oh no, like so many generals in so many third world coups, he wants to seize power in order to reintroduce democracy. And I think we're meant to believe him.

There's a big set piece battle, a dramatic infiltration, and Brone acts like a clichéd screen villain, talking so long that the good guys are able to find a way to turn the tables on him. It really is non-stop action, just so long as you don't want to believe in the characters or the situation. But then, melodrama isn't meant to be believable, just to be engaging and thrilling, and that is something Edelman achieves with aplomb.

Copyright © 2010 by Paul Kincaid

Paul Kincaid is the recipient of the SFRA's Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service for 2006. His collection of essays and reviews, What it is we do when we read science fiction is published by Beccon Publications.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide