Netwalk: Expanded Edition (The Netwalk Sequence Book 1)
by Joyce Reynolds Ward
It’s the middle of the 21st century and Melanie’s got family trouble. Her mother, Diana, runs one part of the split-up United States: the New Federalized United States of America. Her megalomaniac Grandmother Sarah runs the other half, the Confederation of North America. And her brother and uncle are on grandmother Sarah’s side. Both sides have corporate overtones, including next-generation biochip internet technologies. Main character Melanie runs a technology corporation called Do It Right which uses Dialogue for the internet interface, and she is on her mother’s side of the split. Grandmother Sarah’s side uses something similar. Grandmother Sarah’s corporation is called Stephen’s Reclamation. High-stakes corporate espionage abounds. Oh, and Melanie has ADHD. Frankly, it was nice to see a non-neurotypical protagonist this well done.
Things blow up, politically and technology-wise. Melanie’s mother goes to ground and is incommunicado somewhere in a series of allied Native American reservations. Melanie, her security, and a corporate technology spy named Marty recently returned from Grandmother Sarah’s scary outfit are on the run. All flee Do It Right NA’s corporate headquarters in the Pacific Northwest to their international headquarters in Japan. Part of what blew up was that there were breakthroughs in both side’s net technology where they were able to leak into the other side’s communications protocols. But it’s worse than that. Melanie’s brothers and megalomaniac Grandmother Sarah started uploading personalities: first unintentionally, then intentionally. Her uploaded uncle, Peter, uses her living brother Andrew’s biochip to turn him into a host and all but possess him. Grandmother Sarah’s uploaded persona turns into a psychic leech that saps strength from other users, and kills them. The other side is attacking Melanie’s people through their use of her internet protocol, Dialogue. And so is an online monster only her mother and a couple of other people know about, code-named Gizmo.
Melanie and techie Marty stumble upon an unexpected use of Dialogue – Netwalking. They discover it when they learn how to upload personalities, when Melanie’s father dies at Do It Right’s international offices in Japan. They also they rescue an uploaded Do It Right corporate spy, named Ness, who’d been uploaded by the other side of the conflict.
The action takes us back to the Pacific Northwest, where Melanie, Marty and their security are hunted by the other side—both in real life and on the net. But they need to find Melanie’s mother, the head of their government, before the other side kills her. Together, perhaps can they stop the online psychic leech, the uploaded matriarch Sarah. But can they do it before Gizmo grows in strength and destroys them all?
The Expanded Edition ends with short stories and cut scenes set in this world that give you some back story on the characters and their conflicts. If you liked the novel—and I did—you’ll enjoy these shorts, too.
This is part one of three Netwalk books. I’m pleased there will be more to read in this world.