cover image The Fourth World

The Fourth World

Dennis Danvers. Eos, $23 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97761-1

Unabashedly leftist in its politics, Danvers's new novel (after Circuit of Heaven) is set in and around an early 21st-century Mexico that has been all but destroyed by NAFTA, GATT and the WTO. Although Mexico's corrupt leaders have become enormously wealthy, the country is now little more than a source of cheap labor and raw materials for a United States that no longer even pretends to care about human rights. North of the border, most Americans spend their days in windowless rooms, wired into virtual reality on the Web, almost totally disconnected from the real world. Santee St. John, an American journalist working for NewsReal on the WWW, records the massacre of hundreds of Indian farmers in Chiapas in Mexico and is incensed when he discovers that his company won't run the story. Learning that he was sent to witness the killings so that NewsReal could use his footage to blackmail its way into media prominence in Mexico, Santee is soon recruited by Zapatista sympathizer Margaret Mayfield. Joining the Indians in their decades-long revolution against the corrupt Mexican government, Santee and Mayfield uncover both a sordid plot to use the Web to enslave numerous people and hints that the planet may be on the brink of environmental collapse. Danvers's political enthusiasm is refreshing. His rather black-and-white worldview may alienate conservative readers, however, and the quite literal deus ex machina he employs at book's end isn't well seeded. Still, this exciting cyberthriller, with its near-utopian conclusion, should please readers of a more liberal stripe, particularly fans of the novels of Kim Stanley Robinson and Bruce Sterling. (Mar.)