on 20 December 2000
John Barnes starts with the idea of a computer program that can be run in the human brain, and communicates with the main computer via a 'jack' embedded in the person's skull. Earth has been battered by a series of wars, which were latterly between different AI s and their human semi-slaves, but now there is global peace as the AI 'One True' controls everyone. The control is beneficial to the human race as a whole, as all people are encouraged to work for the common good, and are allowed some personal freedom.
A few people resisted the control of 'One True' and lived wild in the northern woods; they are known as cowboys. Currie Curran is a cowboy hunter, brought back from retirement by 'One True' to hunt down the last cowboy.
At one level this is a rather fun backwoods cop chase version of a sci-fi novel and can be read as such. Below that is a debate of the relative value of the freedom of the individual against the reduction of such freedoms for the common good, which is handled with a light touch so that it doesn't drag the story down.
This is the same universe in which John Barnes set 'Orbital Resonance' and 'Kaleidoscope Century', but takes place later. You can read 'Candle' as a stand-alone, but there are some interesting links to both 'Orbital Resonance' and 'Kaleidoscope Century' which do add value to all three books. In tone 'Candle' is a reasonably optimistic book, and I enjoyed it. Of all of John Barnes writing, I prefer 'A Million Open Doors' and 'Earth Made of Glass' to the other books I've just mentioned, but I would recommend 'Candle' both as an entertaining read and a thought provoking work.