March 29, 2010
Staff Picks: Business in Fiction - The Unincorporated Man
A review by Roy Normington
The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, Tor Books, 478 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, March 2009, ISBN 9780765318992
You're going to die in 6 months, you might have as long as a year, due to a life threatening disease.
You're also a billionaire.
What would you do? You have enough money to go to the moon to die, go on a spending spree, donate your fortune to aid others with your infliction, or do some traveling. Or you could also become immoral; a rebel, lash back at society. Or you could accept the inevitable, sit yourself down in front of the TV or read a good book.
In the case of Justin Cord, he wanted to be freeze-dried, Walt Disney-style. He decided that the disease would not kill him, that he would take matters into his own hands. The technology that would freeze time for him might in fact be the death of him, but it would be his choice to make. Wall himself in a pod for a future scientist to wake him up.
He'd have to make sure he would be well-stocked when he awoke. Money, jewels, collectibles where he could get to them in safe areas all over the world. Justin thought well ahead and made every preparation that he could think of to insure his survival. He hoped that a cure would be made when they woke him up and that he would find a way to fit in again.
But his pod wasn't found until 300 years later--in Boulder, Colorado--deep below the surface of earth. Technology did indeed protect him in suspended animation and a team of scientists woke him up, cured him of his sickness and started the process of getting him incorporated.
Incorporated? Justin finds out that a lot of things have changed since he took a nap. Companies and businesses run everything on a more personal level. Every single person alive is their own corporation. From birth, people can sell their own stock to move up in society. From getting into the right schools, finding the right job and even meeting the right person.
Justin also finds out that no one can ever own himself or herself completely. The government always owns 5% of a person, and everyone tries to get a majority share so they will be able to retire.
In the 300 years that Justin was sleeping, cars began to fly, travel takes mere minutes and communication between people is almost immediate. There are things like living walls, DijAssists (think iPad on steroids), and monster-sized skyscrapers with hundreds of floors. New York is the "biggest city in the solar system," his Timex watch is now worth thousands of "credits," diamonds can be manufactured in garages, and money is worth about as much as a Monopoly dollar. Illnesses are easy to handle and crime is non-existent as well--but at what cost?
A person's fate relies on the value of their shares and how well they are selling. Justin lived in a time before The Great Collapse and woke up in a world that has changed so much, yet is very recognizable in his past. It always seemed like companies owned you, and that your whole life was spent working for "the man." But, in this future, it's taken to the Nth level and people are the company. You work for it 24/7 and, thanks to medical technology, that can be for a very, very long time. Justin finds that to fit in he might have to become incorporated. But there are also certain individuals that don't want him around at all. The prefer keeping him in another deep freeze, or worse.
Neela Harper, one of the scientists who woke him up wonders if this Unincorporated Man is ready for this new world... But is it ready for him?
The Unincorporated Man is a fantasy with a sci-fi bend to it. This genre combination didn't make it more or less complex, but some novels have a hard time creating a whole different mythology for an "other world," and this one stayed here in our world--projected out 300 years into the future.
Another common difficulty is that books written by two different people often lack cohesion due to different writing styles and disjointed thoughts. In this case, I think that the fact that the authors are brothers helps the novel, because they seem to have the same goals about the characters, which is encouraging to this reader. I have enjoyed Steven King and Peter Straub collaborations (The Talisman and Black House) in the past and I found myself reading without being constantly aware of the authors’ separate voices.
The Unincorporated Man">The Unincorporated Man dives into basic human relationships between the sexes and between human technology. It also offers some scary insight as to how twisted some of our ideology is--and what it may become. You don't have to be a science fiction geek to appreciate this story because the Kollin brothers constructed their characters thoughtfully and wrote a thrilling story made more compelling by its roots in reality.
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.