Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Title: Soul Corporation
Author: Robert Collins
Publisher: William Heinemann
Soul Corporation is the debut novel by Robert Collins, which is something of a near future commentary on media and the corporate. Fitting nicely with a certain strata of contemporary science fiction writing, which is definitely science fiction, but keeps a feeling of something attainable.
Esh was raised from a mundane background to excel via a series of fast-tracking schemes. The brightest of the bright is seems that her entire life has fallen into place, and as a 19 year old she is ready to take her anticipated job with the Bank. However there things are twisted, at the last minute the Bank let her go, and before she can work out what this means, she is approached instead by the Corporation. The Corporation have a new product, the biggest product ever, and only someone like Esh can possibly be the front person for the campaign. Before she knows it, she has been made an offer of overwhelming financial returns, and is jetting from London to LA to represent a top-secret product. So what if it means cutting herself off from the net and having her identity erased?
Soul Corporation follows Esh as she is offered the world, only to find out that at each step she is increasingly restricted and controlled. Thus it seems that she has sold her soul to the Corporation, though with the existence of the Team, who the Corporation describe as the enemy is there a suggestion of a way out?
In some ways Soul Corporation could be a straight thriller, dealing with the ideas of corporate and product and how we are tied up into that. From the ideas of the must-have product, to the manner in which things are marketed, and with that how an individual can get so caught up in the programme. Esh is cast as corporate spokes model, and in being so she is valuable to the people who have invested in her. In reality celebrities are prone to scandal, something which is touched on here, and part of the principal is the extent to which the money people will protect their investment. The science fiction aspects come in more in a projective sense – huge billboard adverts floating in space, bombarding the earth with their message; the extension of the cult of mac, which sees all the new technology given an “i” prefix; the way in which people plug into the network via chips and software.
One slight downside with Soul Corporation is the way that Esh doesn’t always live up to her promise. She is presented as ultra-bright, and yet the length of time it takes her to put key ideas together is a little worrying. Apart from that Soul Corporation is an easy read, one I steamed through in the course of one day. Reasonably fun, with plenty of the sort of ideas that are relevant and interesting, mixed in a science fiction/thriller mould.
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