The past days were by accident probably the best setting to read this book, right in the upward swing of a pandemic. I finished it yesterday and today here in the Netherlands everything got closed down, pubs, restaurants, sports facilities and schools for at least 3 weeks. In A Song for a New Day, that ‘at least 3 weeks’ turned into always, with humanity keeping its distance from one another after a pox pandemic, and most of life moving to virtual environments so you don’t need to leave your room for work nor entertainment. Drone delivery ftw.

Live music takes center stage in this story. Concerts are not allowed, as they bring together more than a few people. But there’s an underground network of venues and artists. One on which a company feeds to find talent for virtual concerts, but at the cost of shutting down the real venues and scenes.

A call for creativity, and overcoming fear of others. In times of government calls for social physical distancing, a reminder to let guitars rip over the speakers and be kind to your neighbours and community.

16down concert in Second LifeA concert by 16Down I once went to in Second Life in 2007.

(I started reading A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker, as I found it on the list of Nebula Award nominees).

A book that has ‘Agency‘ as its title, and is written by William Gibson, as Boris already intuited, is a book that I must read. So I did, in the past few days after it got published on January 23rd.

It was disappointing I thought.
Except for its definition of personal agency by a rogue AI as personhood, financial independence, and global citizenship, plus transparency about that towards others. And except for introducing the concept of Competitive Control Areas (described more theoretically here) to overcome failed states (in this case by installing Russian oligarchs/gangs, aptly named the ‘klept’. We probably should use that term more widely)

The playing with alternate time paths (stubs) I disliked as it seems a cop-out (leave the timey wimey stuff to The Doctor, where it’s all just a bit of good fun). Other than that the entire book is merely a long chase through a USA where Trump never got elected and Brexit didn’t happen (but Syria might become a nuclear war zone). A high speed chase with AI glasses, and coolio drones remotely controlled by people from the future who lived through the ‘Jackpot’ (the crunch where 80% of humanity died from the climate emergency, but somehow the tech level never collapsed) and now seem rather relaxed about it all as they interfere in other timepaths for fun mostly.

William Gibson, father of 'cyberpunk'William Gibson, image by Frédéric Poirot, license CC BY SA