Novel: State Tectonics by Malka Older

Malka Older’s impressive Centenal Cycle concludes with State Tectonics (2018), another rousing success—indeed, it may be my favorite of the trilogy, which isn’t something I say about a book three very often. Another election is imminent, and Information—the tech giant that controls the global flow of microdemocracy’s data—is hard at work again, sniffing out secret plots and protecting the new world order. This time, it’s techie Maryam who finds herself in the thick of things, investigating a series of mysterious hacking attacks on Information’s data infrastructure. The attacks don’t seem dangerous, but their purpose is unclear. Maryam, with the help of a familiar cast of supporting characters, gets embroiled in another complex threat to microdemocracy, which seems to involve “Exformation,” an organization of former Information employees who found asylum in the null states and appear to be working up a world-shaking new assault on the status quo.

Older’s futurism is, as usual, rich and fascinating—almost to a fault, in fact, as the series’ huge scope and massive cast of characters can get rather confusing. Throughout, however, the plot momentum keeps chugging along, and there’s a sound narrative strategy lurking beneath all the distracting bells and whistles of the complicated worldbuilding. In the end, the intricate machinations of the story distill down to one crystal-clear moment that turns this future on its ear, and while there’s a certain melancholy to the resolution, there’s also a welcome hopefulness to the series’ final moments. Ultimately, the Centenal Cycle delivers its characters and world to an uncommonly satisfying conclusion, which—considering the dizzying ambition of this extended thought experiment—is really quite dazzling.

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