Hemispheres by Mark Everglade

Mark Everglade's Hemispheres offers a world of scarcity (Scar City) and plenty, a hemisphere bathed in permanent light (Dayburn) and another hemisphere shrouded in everlasting darkness (Evig Natt). This binary is one of many in Hemispheres, which explores binaries experienced by man individually and in society. Those include war and peace, order and chaos, consciousness and unconsciousness, male and female, light and dark, wealth and poverty, power and helplessness. Everglade uses his work to comment on social inequalities, like when he writes that "Cardboard cut-out shanties adorn the feet of skyscrapers" (50), an unfortunate reality in cities the world over, where the 1% live and work far above the poorest of the poor.

The central conflict is as follows: "The government denies its citizens light to preserve its wealth and power. If both hemispheres had day and night cycles, the war over land would end."

The heroes of Hemispheres, including the aptly named Severum (one hemisphere severed from the other) undertake a project to reduce inequality by altering their planet's rotation, giving everyone on the planet access to light. 

To be sure, Everglade is not writing a tale that easily maps itself onto the occident and orient, East vs. West. The idea of the East as somehow inferior to the West is a myth borne of technological progress anyway. In the 21st century, the old binary of East/West describes itself across the landscape of every country and city. Everglade's world building is future oriented, considering the balance of power in a world with ancient AI along with more recognizable powers like military backed political states. 

Everglade writes squarely in the cyberpunk genre.  The people living on Gliese 581g view the world through occipts, a video feed that is, unfortunately, hackable. And lots more is hackable in Hemispheres. Their received history is "glitched," a pieced together hodgepodge of Western history, which delightfully includes one President Bomba who is credited with developing the atom bomb.

The world building of the novel is reminiscent of George Herbert's Arrakis from the Dune novels, especially since ecology plays a major role in the narrative. Both Arrakis and Gliese 581g exist almost as characters in the novel, darkness or dessication, finding fireflies or spice providing a rich background and motive driving the action.

Everglade's hackable consciousnesses explores territory formerly considered by Joe Haldeman in Forever Peace and George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails (and others, including Philip K Dick with implanted memories and William Gibson's personality constructs in Neuromancer). Haldeman's novel considers the future of consciousness when entire populations can link to each other's minds, altering individual views through a process that is part therapy, part crowdsourcing. After exposing most humans to the therapy/crowdsourcing in Forever Peace, humans collectively give up war. In Effinger's When Gravity Fails, mods pop into a slot at the back of the neck and alter perception and personality, effectively modifying a human as if they were a computer running a new program (slotted into a floppy disk drive). 

In place of an '80s comparison between what computers could do and what humans might one day be capable of doing, Hemisphere's cognigraf, a technology allowing brain to computer interface, is more a consideration of the messages and information impacting individuals from multiple digital sources, including news media and social media. The writing and ideas that exist "out there" easily find their way to the "in here" that is each of our minds. Everglade's world is dystopian, as all of the advanced technology is still subject to glitches and hacks and weapons--Pulsers that easily overcharge--are dangerous and easy to come by.

Hemispheres begins with a description that promises action that Everglade delivers: "The obsidian sky is pulled taut as if a bow ready to release," a line on theme as well, given that by the book's end, the tidally locked planet has been unlocked, with the rotational spin on a steady increase, the hemispheres no longer divided by dark and light. And not only is the planet in motion, Mark is moving forward with a sequel to his epic narrative where we'll be sure to get more variations on a dream. Until then, "Go hack yourself."

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