Each week on my YouTube channel, I review books. I alternate between the number one best selling book on Amazon, and an independent title of my own choosing. For this week’s independent book review, I chose the science fiction book The Beam: Season One by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.
Thanks to fan requests, I’ll be excluding spoilers from the show.
In The Beam, a futuristic America has only two political parties: Enterprise and Directorate.
Enterprise is the epitome of free-market capitalism, but its members have no safety net. If they fail, they starve. But if they succeed, they become the richest people on the planet.
Directorate members have every need tended to by the government. They never starve or get sick, and they don’t have to work thanks to advances in automation. But they also can’t rise above their position: they must accept their government handouts. And all in Directorate are ostensibly equal.
In this world, the Beam is basically the Internet on steroids. Invented by the mysterious Noah West, The Beam can project itself on virtually any surface. Through The Beam, the population of the world interacts and does much of its business, similar to the OASIS interface in the book Ready Player One.
It knows everything about you and automates your surroundings accordingly. Cybernetic enhancements are common, all designed to increase our abilities and provide better integration with the Beam.
There is no single protagonist in The Beam, but an ensemble cast of characters. The story begins with Doc, a grey-market enhancement vendor who sells his clients experimental, semi-legal bionics.
Doc stumbles upon a secretive cybernetic technology that promises to revolutionize our lives—but which he soon discovers is destined only for a certain, select few.
His sudden knowledge endangers not only Doc, but many of his friends and colleagues, including the Nicolai, right-hand man of the Directorate leader, and the most badass fictional woman in recent memory, the high-class escort Kai.
In a parallel storyline, Leah, a member of the anti-Beam, anti-enhancements Organa organization, is drawn in to the mystery of Crumb, a supposedly crazy old man who seems to know far more about The Beam than he should.
While the story of The Beam is both thrilling and action-packed, I felt it took an appropriate backseat to the world in which it took place, providing us with a surprisingly philosophical and in-depth reading experience—more so than you’d expect from your typical sci-fi action thriller.
Sci-Fi commonly projects a future where the rules have changed, throwing the morality of today into question. With The Beam, Truant and Platt join Card, Asimov and other science fiction giants in predicting humanity’s future and posing the questions we haven’t yet thought of.
Ender’s Game asked what we should do when we encounter alien species, while Asimov’s I, Robot was about humanity dealing with of artificial intelligence and whether artificial life deserve the rights of all life.
The Beam presents us with two questions, both frighteningly applicable to modern day society. The first is, would you join Enterprise or Directorate? Total security or total freedom? During the book you may find yourself swinging one way or another on this, inevitably bringing you to the philosophical synthesis that neither can be perfect, neither, taken to its extreme end, is desirable in the least.
The second question relates to today’s technological development. In the future, humanity is so dependent upon the Beam that whenever it cuts out, even for a few minutes, there’s a rash of suicides across the country. It’s not hard to see parallels in today’s world, with many of us reduced to mental zombies, enslaved by our mobile devices and sometimes looking at our phones more often than our own children.
I’ve never seen science fiction deal so well with this question: Just because we can do something, should we? And you’ll need to draw your own conclusion for this one, because like any good storytellers, Johnny and Sean aren’t providing any answers.
In terms of writing style, I’ve long been a fan of the works of both of these authors, and this book is no exception. The action is thrilling, the dialogue crackles, and the story moves along at a good pace, with neither too much nor too little exposition.
In particular, I always feel the need to inform people that the editing in a Johnny B. Truant book is near perfect, at a much higher standard than even most traditionally published books. If you fear the unprofessionalism of self-published titles, rest assured, in this book, scanners are clear.
In the end, I give The Beam: Season One 5 stars out of 5.
If someone asks me for a good new science fiction novel to read, this is at the top of my list.
While it may sound hyperbolic to call a book flawless, this book has done for me what all of my favorite science fiction books have done in the past—it has made me think, it has made me view the world differently, and it kept me entertained from beginning to end.
Thanks for visiting. As always, you can purchase this book by clicking on the cover, which will take you to the Amazon bookstore through an affiliate link that helps fund the show.
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