As I wrote down all of my ideas for my novel Virtual Silence years ago, and started writing the manuscript, I wondered how would I categorize this book? It has youth, love and sex. It has age, wisdom and death. It has crooked businessmen and terrorists. It has a songwriter in love and organic cookies. So how do you boil all of that down to one line you can pitch?
At one point I had merged all four of the stories into one, like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. But later I broke it up into the novel and three related stories to eliminate confusion. They’re all connected, but they have different focal characters.
In the story also called Virtual Silence, Harry Bones escapes his abusive step mother and tries to woo Callie Wilson-Cox, his girl next door who has moved from San Antonio to Oakland to start her adult life. Wooing her in Oakland doesn’t work out, so he returns to San Antonio and gets a mail room job with the Amalgamate United Corporation. The AUC is the largest corporation on Earth, and owns a substantial share of many governments, including the US. The AUC arranges for the homeless to be shipped to Mexico where they are obligated to work for a Mexican drug lord, out of sight and mind of the US economy. Harry meets Simon DeMont, the sensitive HR director who is secretly in love with Morgan Vale, the Procurement Director, who is the leader of a protest/hacker group that seeks to shut down the mind-numbing and controlling media.
What Harry doesn’t know is that Callie is in love with him, and is on her way back to Texas to jump into his arms. What Simon doesn’t know is that Morgan wants him to ask her out, even if he is soft and weak. And what Morgan doesn’t know is that Simon already suspects she is the leader of the Virtual Silence Brigade and isn’t bothered by it. What none of them realize is that Tim Dank, the devious, artificially upbeat Facility Director at their site, has used his influence and insider knowledge to garner a majority share in the AUC, and is on his way to becoming the most powerful man on Earth. Does his executive assistant, Art Smith, support or thwart his insidious plans? The tension and intrigue build to an explosive crescendo where bricks fly, buildings rock, and Art and love triumph over greed and power.
In the second story, The Strobe, we learn more about Garrison Ensor, an accountant with the AUC who used to work for their competitor, the UUM, until he got laid off after a huge corporate growth spurt. His crush and former boss Janna McCafferty is also let go, and the two of them decide to have a night on the town. They discover a shiny orb of energy that turns out to be an accident of alien technology. They use it to travel through time and space to learn how aliens created corporations, and encouraged humans to make weapons and wars. The aliens wanted humans to stay focused on war, technology and TV so they could take the Earth’s resources without a fight. Garrison and Janna do not age in the Strobe, so they must decide whether to spend eternity together in this alternate universe, or return to the real world and deal with all of its imperfections.
The Money Machine is about an electronic money-laundering device that former hockey star Ronnie Day creates in order to buy back American slaves from Mexican drug lord Juan Manual Hermosa Chihuahua. Day has a plan to ship them by train to Alaska where they can live free, if not wealthy or warm, on a commune he created. In a corrupt world, one must be careful with whom one does business. So Ronnie gets a big surprise when the train doors open up in northern British Columbia, and a new life begins for him and his lover, former AUC executive Kitty Le Monde.
The Dialer is about the Second Coming of Sonny Mahon, who finds himself in a wrinkled business suit and sandals on a sidewalk in Downtown San Antonio, just down the street from the AUC Building. He tries to tell people about love and forgiveness, but no one wants to hear it. They are too busy going to work, or shopping, or getting to the next big thing. Venture Capitalist Burt Long sees Sonny as an opportunity, and convinces him to work for his new 900 number start up as a Dial-a-Jesus. When Sonny confronts Burt about his tiny paycheck, Burt fires him and tosses out his auto dialing machine, which Sonny retrieves from the dumpster outside. Art Smith convinces Sonny to start his own business with the dialer, calling people at random and helping them solve their direst problems.
So this book asks this question: Do you believe your life is about more than just where you work, what you watch, or what you buy? Is your passion for sale or subject to terms and conditions? Is your soul a wholly-owned subsidiary of the AUC and its affiliated companies? Or are you some assembly required?
It’s your choice to buy or sell the corprocracy.