Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian worker, and PhD candidate at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations studying governance and disasters. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than eight years of experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to complex emergencies and natural disasters in Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali.

Older applied the Page 69 Test to Infomocracy, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is part of a section I often read from, because it is includes a chase scene and also offers a quick window into the world of the book. Page 69 takes place in Jakarta when one of the main characters, Ken, realizes he’s being followed. He’s already been alerted by his antennae, tiny filaments that twitch at the nape of his neck if their cameras pick up anything strange going on behind him. Now he’s able to confirm it by watching the video they project into a corner of his vision:
Just as he’s starting to think the antennae were overreacting, triggered by a random repeat passerby or innocent stares, he passes under a rare bank of solar-powered streetlights, and a few seconds later he sees something in the vid: the glimmer of the lights passing over the carapace of a vehicle, a large vehicle. That in itself is not strange; what is odd is that the behemoth is not nudging people, donkeys, motorcycles, three-wheelers, and Sunways out of the way to pass. Ken risks a glance over his shoulder, and the head- lights of the massive all-terrainer seem to wink at him. It is hanging back, maintaining a distance, inexplicable in this cutthroat traffic culture unless there is some other motive.
Ken is at a distinct disadvantage, because the government he works for, Policy1st, prefers low-impact vehicles like the solar-powered Sunway he’s riding. He tries to make the best of it.
When the slow pace of traffic gets him near enough to the corner, he swings the Sunway up on to the sidewalk, slides it around the corner onto a dark, almost-empty side street, and flips the auxiliary speed switch. The platform below him hums, then vibrates. He hears honking from the street behind him as the SUV tries to make it to the corner. Then his head jerks back in a gush of smoggy air as the Sunway takes off, bouncing along the imperfectly paved road.
The chase that follows illustrates the way different governments in this future world crowd as close together as neighborhoods, so that crossing a street can completely change the laws you are bound by and, therefore, the best approach to evading a pursuer. The section also captures the sense of semi-illicit political intrigue that drives much of the novel, as Ken and his colleagues and rivals try to sway the result of a global election.
Follow Malka Older on Twitter and visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue