By: Tim Jordan
In 2070, nanotech longevity drugs have become the de-facto currency of a post-apocalyptic Earth. Glow is one such drug, addictive and all-controlling, with the devastating power to copy, edit, and paste memories from host to host.
On the streets of Coriolis City, Rex battles his addiction to Glow, and the beguiling, terrifying voices it puts in his head, all while fleeing drug liches, corrupt malitia, and an unstoppable assassin sent down from space.
In orbit, the GFC fights to maintain control of a failing empire as they battle the Alliance, a newly established regime that seeks to take control of civilization. In such a massive conflict, Rex’s uncanny ability to resist Glow might just make him the key to changing the future of mankind.
For science fiction lovers, nanobot technology is nothing new. The original concept first appeared in 1959 and has stuck in our modern lexecon ever since. It’s not a stretch to think that nanobots could potentially help to keep us alive in the near future by fighting diseases or improving longevity. However, nanobot technology that enters the bloodstream and works to keep a person alive through addiction, that is something new.
The way Glow works is once in the body, the tiny machines create a digital system that includes a rendering of the user’s personality. If that person dies and the Glow is put into someone else’s system, they get a “glowworm” or the fragmented memory and personality of the dead person. The only way to prevent that from happening is to take unused Glow which most people on the street can’t afford. This creates addicts with multiple personalities that ultimately lose themselves to dementia.
Envision a future where we’re literally addicted to technology and we pay for it through a subscription basis just for the sake of not growing old. Sounds to me like something out of Black Mirror. In this story, the nanobots will even kill their host if they believe they could be put into a better, more reliable body. Advancements like that have the potential to cause more harm than good.
In the beginning, the story is focused on the characters and their relationship with Glow. I didn’t see much world building outside of a dystopian future where people augment their bodies like cyberpunks. Politics was barely in the picture and there were no aliens or large military battles like in a space opera. It seemed like a story about humanity’s hubris in seeking immortality and how such a discovery would ultimately destroy us. We would morph and change into something that was no longer human, something artificial.
Eventually, the story progresses to a war between the people who make the drugs and the people who want control of the drugs. The readers get their military battle, and Glow becomes a modern science fiction novel again. It’s not a groundbreaking premise, but it’s unique enough and mind-bending enough to be memorable.
My favorite part of this novel was the concept of the future lord, a deity born from a perfect AI/human mix. Followers of the future lord know that he doesn’t exist yet, but will one day and they believe he will be so advanced that he can send messages to his acolytes back through time.
In a roundabout kind of way, this deity is very similar to a thought experiment called Roko’s Basilisk. The Basilisk is a hypothetical AI that humanity would ask to optimize their lives to make the world better. For whatever reason, the Basilisk decides that those who chose to assist with its creation are those that truly want to optimize humanity. Everyone else that didn’t assist does not and therefore will be destroyed and suffer eternal torment. Because the Basilisk’s AI is so advanced, it could perfectly simulate every human on Earth and the choices they’ve made, meaning it would effectively know if someone wanted it to exist or not. People who fear the idea of the Basilisk and what it could do to them in the future would then start building it right now to ensure they didn’t suffer eternal damnation. This would mean people were effectively being controlled by a being that doesn’t yet exist. This is a concept that takes more than just a paragraph to explain, so I would recommend you watch Kyle Hill’s YouTube video on the subject if you want to know more. He does a great job of explaining it. The entire concept is fascinating in my opinion and I definitely see a link with this book.
Ultimately, Glow took a while to get through because the plot is mildly convoluted and I needed time to wrap my mind around the story. In all honesty, I’m still coming to grips with it since there are several concepts that are just hard to imagine. Though that’s not something unique to this novel, it’s a common feature in hard sci-fi. That being said, I like to know what I just read and understand the full ramifications and uses of the technology presented. It’s an interesting book but not a perfect book.
Overall rating: 4