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Gamechanger    by L. X. Beckett order for
by L. X. Beckett
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2019 (2019)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Reading L. X. Beckett's Gamechanger, I felt like someone in the early 1900s trying to comprehend today's world. Beckett does an excellent job of world building and making the advances incorporated in the novel very credible.

In this post apocalyptic future, the Bounceback Generation works hard to re-make the world after the disasters (caused by climate change, disease and war) of the twenty-first century. The economy is based on social currency, as individuals take on short term gigs of all kinds to increase their social capital. Some also hold permajobs. People give each other positive or negative electronic strokes, for assistance or bad behavior.

Since the real world is still bleak, people spend a great deal of their time interacting in virtual reality, which they can design to fit their tastes. Gaming remains very popular. Cherub ('Rubi') Whiting is a Sensorium gaming star. Her gaming archnemesis is Gimlet Barnes, whose family is imploding (a wife divorcing, a husband dying and a teenage daughter acting out). Gimlet and their daughter Frankie both play key roles in the story.

Rubi takes on public defender gigs, acting for anti-social individuals. Her latest client is controversial Luciano Pox. Ambitious Interpol agent Anselmo Javier seems to believe Luce to be part of a feared Singularity (a superintelligence wired into Sensorium), but Rubi suspects he's a polter, an uploaded human consciousness. She refers Luce to her father Woodrow for psychological counseling. Woodrow is a brilliant, troubled musician, obsessed with tracking down ancient wealth hoarders.

Meanwhile, readers discover that there really is a community of self-aware AIs, some closely linked to Rubi and her father as electronic sidekicks. As this complex plot develops, it reveals an off-world connection as well, one that chooses not to play by the rules. Soon, the game is on - and will determine the future of humanity. Gamechanger is brilliant SF, and also a story that you'll want to start all over again once you close that last page. Highly recommended!

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