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Candle Mass Market Paperback – 1 Dec 2000
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With most of humanity wired into the "net," Currie Culver is called out of retirement to hunt a "cowboy," a rogue who has dared to live a life unplugged. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
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The drawback is mechanical obedience to voices (or memes) in everyone's heads. Prodding those who fail to work hard enough, overwriting disquieting memories, transferring the 'best of class' skills to individuals given similar assignments. Everything you or I do will be uploaded to that 'One True' mind. Does any of this bother you?
We do not want to submerge into one big happy human family. Certainly, the concept can not allow outlaws. They must not remain free; hunters will search them out for extinction. So the main part of the book deals with the subtle back-and-forth between two experienced survivors, and which way they decide to go. Low tech, playing out the last act of this play.
See similar concepts in: The Merchants of Souls,Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book).
by John Barnes
Style: First person past tense.
Currie Curtis Curran - retired Cowboy hunter, narrater of the story
Mary - Currie’s wife, fragile and unstable, she needs constant management from her Resuna.
Dave Singleton AKA Lobo - Cowboy fugitive (AKA someone not plugged into One True)
Kelly - Dave’s daughter
One True - an AI (though AI is never used in the book, it and all the competitors for the human minds are called memes) comprised of billions of copies of Resuna running in human brains.
This book is book three in a series but it stands alone nicely. I didn’t read the first two and I enjoyed it. It is a well written concept science fiction novel.
The concept is a post apocalyptic world where humans are monitored and controlled by an AI called One True. One True won the meme wars and now nearly all of humanity lives peacefully constantly monitored by their own personalized copies of a program called Resuna (small programs that as a whole make up One True). One True keeps everyone happy and in sync and when necessary uses “Let override, Let overwrite” to fix moments of conflict - literally erasing and rewriting memories if needed.
People who live outside the system are called cowboys and the man character Currie is a retired Cowboy hunter. He is pulled out of retirement by One True to hunt down a particularly dangerous (according to One True he is very bad indeed) Cowboy named Lobo. One True shows him a recording from a young girl’s mind that shows Lobo raping her and her mother. After that Currie is eager to start the man hunt.