DAVID M HENLEY Manifestations. Reviewed by Folly Gleeson
The second book in the Pierre Jnr trilogy is a compelling read, full of ideas and fast-flowing events.
David Henley’s Pierre Jnr trilogy explores the world of the future. 2159 is a time not so far in the future, however, that it doesn’t contain many ideas and technologies that reflect and extend those of our own time.
In the first book, The Hunt for Pierre Jnr, we found a densely populated world where the citizens were tightly controlled and where those with telekinetic and telepathic skills were sent to island jails. This world, called the World Union, was connected to the Weave, an invasive and extensive internet-like technology, where political changes occurred in response to the Will of the citizenry, a form of instant democracy; an imaginative idea not too far from the possibilities of our own near future.
Certain individuals are able to search and manipulate the Weave to assert control, and to delve into the actions and experiences of anyone connected to it. This is because they have a symbiot, a robot-like device that connects them to the Weave (and can be used against them). Although the World Union is opposed to psionic activity, the power of those able to manipulate the Weave is ironically close to that of the despised telepathic and telekinetic power-wielders, (tappers and benders).
Pierre Jnr is a gifted and mysterious eight-year-old. He has phenomenal psychic powers, both telepathic and telekinetic, and was the most feared threat to the World Union in the first book because he was able to subvert all laws, man-made as well as those of reality, and seemed to be on a path toward world domination:
The Colonel fed the dot into his symb as soon as it was activated and began watching the collected Pierre Jnr surveillance footage. It slowed down his dressing as he saw scenes of Pierre Jnr from around the world, walking amongst the people, never being seen, never being noticed, but always obeyed and served.
However, in Manifestations two other threats have evolved. One is a strange black jelly-like entity named Kronos that has consumed a city of four million people and which appears to be able to replicate, and the other is a developing psionic revolution. There is also a growing group in the World Union that espouses tolerance for those with psionic skills. These developments destabilise the position of the Prime, the leader of the World Union, who holds his position only by the Will of the people.
Henley very skilfully presents a wide range of situations and characters and gives a real sense of a vast civilisation under threat, but certain people from the first book are still the main protagonists. Colonel Pinter has been rejuvenated and is now in charge of the fight against Kronos, Tamsin Grey is masterminding the psionic rebellion, Geoff Ozenbach is still searching the Weave, and poor Peter Lazarus has been imprisoned, drugged and treated brutally, as he is a telepath and is not trusted by the Prime, Ryu Shima. There are many other characters who are used to illuminate aspects of the narrative flow and although they are often vibrant and reveal much of the background that makes the story so interesting, they are really functions without much depth. Pierre Jnr haunts the edges of the story but he is still a profound enigma.
The joy for the reader in this tale is found in the numerous creative allusions. I particularly enjoyed the idea of a sculptured head in each town that expressed the mood of the people:
Unlike the clocks of old that kept people informed of the time, town faces depicted the overall mood and feelings of the Weave. The face’s expression gave all who looked upon it an immediate sense of how those around them might be feeling.
Also I liked the concept that the carefully named hakkas can hack, and can more or less mimic advertisements from our own time. And, what is the significance of the fact that Kronos has been developed from digitalis? Could this be a reference to the fact that it can flow? There are so many amusing and creative ideas here. It is like a rich jigsaw of threads and allusions, many commenting perceptively on our own times: for example, privacy is certainly something that doesn’t exist!
The third book, Convergence, is about to be released. I look forward to it, as there are so many connections and hints to be resolved.
David M Henley Manifestations Voyager 2014 PB 432pp $29.99
Folly Gleeson was a lecturer in Communication Studies. At present she enjoys her book club and reading history and fiction.
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