Infomocracy by Malka Older (Book Review)

InfomocracyInfomocracy by Malka Ann Older

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What this book is about:

In the not-so-distant future, Earth is in turmoil over the upcoming elections that will decide which government will win the Supermajority. Information agents are busier than ever and campaign representatives travel across the centenals in an effort to get voters to their side. In the days leading up to the election we follow Michima, an Information employee whose stressful job includes, among others, to make sure the election data and process are running smoothly. Ken is an operative of Policy1st, one of the running governments. A young man with big plans and hopes for a great future career that so far has yet to come. While Ken and Michima are opting for an easy election process – and of course for Ken, a favourable outcome for Policy1st- Domaine, an anti-election anarchist, has different plans. As the voting begins worldwide it becomes clearer by the minute that someone is sabotaging the elections and the busy protagonists just got much more work on their hands.

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A debut political science fiction thriller from a new author with obvious experience in economics and technology, Infomocracy is definitely an original, unique idea of a story. It is also a risky one. What becomes clear from the beginning is that this is not a novel that will appeal to everyone. The author has a very specific conception and focus on her story, politics and political systems, and the plot is not aiming to please the general reading audience. With the main focus on Mishima, Ken and Domaine, we read from a third-person-perspective and follow along as Earth prepares to select their future leading government.

People like to think they know things, even the unknowable.

P1040573_FotorI have to begin this review by praising the world that Malka Ann Older built for us in this novel. The conception of the larger scale parts is brilliant. We have the Earth divided not into countries but in centenals. Each centenal includes 100.000 citizens who vote and decide over a government to lead their district. The government who wins Supermajority has control over the world. This form of management is called micro-democracy and has been applied for the last 20 years. Everyone is able to vote electronically through their handheld devices and the countries hold no more borders among them. What I really enjoyed about this conception were the small details of technological advances and gadgets that truly brought the idea of the world onto the next level. Translators that are implanted or placed in each person’s ear, crows that resembled, in my imagination, something like batmobiles (basically flying cars), clothes that charge and monitor the temperature..I really appreciate the details that made the portrait of this futuristic Earth shine in such a realistic manner!

People like to think micro-democracy is stable, safe, unbreakable, because there have been two successful elections with plenty of power shifts at the centenal level. It’s too easy to forget the system hasn’t seen a peaceful Supermajority transition yet.

P1040557_FotorFor all its glorious world building, the novel is quite overwhelming. We begin with a bumpy start where we are introduced to the system. While micro-democracy is a fairly simple conceptualisation, Malka Older has impressively large ideas about the governments. The first 100 pages are spent in a chaos of info dump where I was trying to get into the plot and understand what is happening. While never explicitly said, Information is the biggest and strongest power on Earth. Governments are contesting against each other in pursuit of control over most of the centenals. Of course there are people who do not agree with the micro-democratic system and thus attempt to sabotage the elections which, as you can imagine due to the fact that they take place every 10 years, are a very important event. One thing to keep in mind before going into this novel is that it is very politically heavy. While it did remind me of House of Cards at times, as I mentioned, it is not a book aimed to please the reading audience. This is the author’s idea of a futuristic politics system in a novel. Whether you like it or not, this is what it is. It is a fun, entertaining plot that makes you ponder about the future of the planet and I applaud the effort and knowledge the author put into it.

Democracy is the worst system, except for all the other ones.

P1040583_FotorWhat I felt was lacking in this story was the political implications and the consequences of the Information system on the citizens of the world. While the scope and the feel of this novel is global and we do spend time in various places of the world, from France to Tokyo and from New York to Istanbul, we never really get an inside look at the people. How do actual working men, women and children of this new world feel about the elections. What is going through the crowd’s minds? What are the implications of everything that happens in this book in a more microscopic, individualistic level? Our protagonists are not the most important, high-ranking officials of the Earth but they certainly hold important positions. Still, with a handful of people who play a part in the story and an exciting world, the civilians and their lives were underwhelmingly present.

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To conclude, here we have a political story that successfully demonstrates limitless imagination and speculative potential by an author with evident knowledge in the field of economic, politics and global relations. Is politics my thing? No. But I did enjoy this novel and respected the talent and creativity depicted in the world building of our future planet. I would not recommend this book to someone who doesn’t care about politics or science fiction books. But if you are interested in global diplomacy or you are a fan of science fiction, speculative stories, this is a book you might want to check out. The sequel to Infomocracy is coming out in 2017 and I do hope we meet more people and see micro-democracy from an individualistic, civilian perspective.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publishing house (Tor) for an honest review.

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