cover image Null States

Null States

Malka Older. Tor, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9338-8

Older’s second novel (after Infomocracy) is a little less tightly focused than its predecessor and suffers from midtrilogy sag. In the near future, Information, which is both a concept and an organization that practices global surveillance and data gathering, has divided most of the world into “centenals” of 100,000 people that vote various political parties into power. A large cast of characters, including former Information operative Mishima, is caught up in two political intrigues: the assassination of a local leader in the former Darfur and the continued shenanigans of the Heritage political party, whose waning fortunes lead to more desperate actions. The two plotlines do intertwine somewhat, but the ultimate revelations (and what passes for resolution) are decidedly unsatisfying, feeling mostly like the set-up for the next volume. There are great character moments, including Information employee Roz’s slow-building romance with a local sheik, and teammate Minzhe dealing with potential conflicts of interest due to his mother’s presence in a local government; those will please returning fans. (Sept.)