Don Sakers,
Dance for the Ivory Madonna
(Speed-of-C, 2002)

If you like sci-fi and would like a peek at what the world might be like 40 years from now, then Dance For the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers might be right up your alley. This novel, at just over 450 pages, portrays a world vastly different from the one we know today.

To begin with, the United States has fragmented into several smaller nations. The new U.S. stretches from coast to coast across the far northern states and down the eastern seaboard. The south successfully seceded into the Christian Confederacy of American States. Mexamerica now extends north to halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and east to half of Texas. Then we have the land locked nations of the Mormon Federation and Dinetah -- the Indian nation.

In contrast, most of Africa has merged in to the mega-state of Umoja. After decades of dealing with AIDS, ebola and more diseases than I can pronounce, the population of the continent plummeted. African Americans emigrated to Africa, bringing with them the technology needed to create this super-state which, in many ways, has stepped ahead of the West. For example, how do you control all these exotic diseases that keep popping up as humanity encroaches further and further in to the jungles and forests of Africa? Simply destroy the environment these plagues live in. Don't worry about the fact that we need trees to produce oxygen. Bio-engineered ocean algae and desert grass are the world's new lungs. Plus, there are replicas of everything in cyberspace so it isn't like your descendants won't be able to see what former species looked like (assuming they even want to).

Speaking of cyberspace, it is broken up into several areas and is controlled by artificial intelligence. The few areas that the AIs let us humans enter are compelling enough that many people live most of their lives in cyberspace. It beats reality. Just pop on your RCSpex, which are as common as sunglasses today, and away you go! The best thing about virtual reality is that you can program out the things you don't like. Another cool thing is that you can project yourself anywhere you want to be without ever leaving your room.

With all the descriptions of how the world has changed (and believe me, I could keep going), you might wonder if the book has a plot at all. Indeed it does. The Ivory Madonna is a member of a secret, worldwide organization known as the Nexus. This organization seems to do a better job at policing the world than the United Nations. Another member of the Nexus is Damien. When he was just a child, he swears that his father was murdered and replaced by another man. This story is about identity theft taken to another level.

The man who stole Damien's father's identity has stolen many other identities and has gone to great lengths to fool the world. This man, known as Marc Hoister, has a plan to force a mass migration of black people to the new colonies of Mars. And, as Damien, the Ivory Madonna and the Nexus discover, he plans to leave the Earth destroyed in the process. This story is, in another sense, about the exodus of God's chosen people to the promised land -- at least as far as Marc is concerned. The big question, and the reason to read Dance For the Ivory Madonna, is to see if he succeeds.

I found this novel very entertaining. The way the story is written, the time line jumps back and forth from the present (2042) back several decades to describe how some aspect of the world changed and is interspersed with advertisements explaining new technology such as the RCSpex. Many of the chapters are written as e-mails. People savvy with the Internet (and I assume you are since you are reading this online) should have little trouble with the style, but I could see technophobes hating the layout. While I did enjoy the story, I will admit that my favorite sections were the ones where Sakers either synthesized the history of a year that has already past (pre-2002), or when he introduces new technology. I could have read 450 pages just about how this particular world was formed and I would have thought it time well spent.

Sakers' writing style is easy to read. I found his imagination about the future of Earth to be intriguing and worth checking out. I also enjoyed reading about the Nexus. I hope to read more about this clandestine group before too long. Sakers certainly created an interesting future for us. I want to know what else happens. After you read Dance For the Ivory Madonna, I imagine you will, too.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 4 January 2003

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