The Lead Cloak (The Lattice Trilogy, Book 1), by Erik Hanberg
It’s been said that science fiction is set in the future but it’s always written about the present. That’s evident in this unusual but interesting opening book for The Lattice Trilogy. While it’s set in 2081 it addresses many of the issues already surrounding the internet.
In the book Colonel Byron Shaw guards one of two installations that house The Lattice, his assignment is at Area 51 and the other is in the former particle accelerator in Switzerland. The Lattice is an advanced computer that can trace individual atoms back through history. This allows users to connect to devices that allow them to see any event in time or even to participate in it by experiencing what a person in history is experiencing. In modern times it essentially means that there is no privacy. If someone sees a beautiful woman on the street he can trace her sexual history and know what it’s like to be her or her partner making love. Shaw enjoys going back to Civil War battles to experience the battle from the perspective of various generals, hearing their thoughts and seeing the event through their eyes.
Some people are horrified by this, so much so that the book opens with an attempted nuclear attack on the installation where Shaw works. The attackers nearly succeed, in part by using a double to infiltrate Shaw’s team.
Shaw is sent to Switzerland to examine security at the second site. There he receives a message on a mysterious ball that seems to be able to appear and disappear on command. Those who attempted the nuclear attack can use these to communicate in writing.
Shaw is kidnapped by this group and given a choice to join or die.
The science in the book is highly speculative, but as Arthur C. Clarke said, anything sufficiently advanced will look like magic. This is pushing a lot of technical advancement into a 60-year window, but the ideas are unique and intriguing. In addition to getting to have his characters play with nearly miraculous science Hanberg also gets to examine human privacy, the toys of the haves opposed to the horrors of the have-nots, and the activities of a uniquely structured terror cell.
Without dropping a spoiler there’s a moment at the end of the book in which a character says “What have we done?” which sets up lots of possibilities for the next two books.
Action is vivid and there’s a great deal of interesting strategizing for both protecting and attempting to destroy The Lattice, and some tense life-or-death situations. Hanberg has created a vivid if uncomfortable future in a book that reads like a top-notch thriller.