Candle (2000)

Backcover Synopsis: In the wake of the Meme Wars that swept the planet two generations before, fifty-five-year-old Currie, his wife, and almost everyone on Earth have in their minds a copy of One True, software that grants its hosts limited telepathy and instills a kind of general cooperation. In his younger days, Currie hunted “cowboys” – people who had unplugged from the global net in order to evade One True, and who hid in wilderness areas, surviving by raiding the outposts of civilization.

Now Currie is called back into service to capture the last cowboy still at large, a man who calls himself Lobo. With his high tech equipment, thoroughly plugged into the global net, Currie sets out to bring Lobo in. Instead, Lobo captures Currie, and manages to deprogram him. Thrown back on the resources of his own intelligence, courage, and wisdom for the first time in twenty-five years, Currie finds himself in a battle of minds with his captor … with results that will change the lives of everyone on Earth.

Another excellent entry in the “Century Next Door” sequence that’s partly told from the POV of a person that is in the grip of the world-dominating meme One True. The two main characters play a cat and mouse game with each other and One True, and during it tell their own life stories that rehash some of the same territory of fictional history we already read about in “Kaleidoscope Century”.

Actually that is one of the few weaknesses of the book, if you don’t like overlong flashbacks, this could annoy you. At times it felt like the real story of the book, what was actually happening in the present-day of the story, was not really important and only used to write another book about mercenaries during the Meme War. Later I’ll realized that I was dead wrong, still for some time this impression prevailed and made me a little sour. The book has a real killer plot-twist that changes the whole conflict between One True and mankind in a significant way.

Like always in a Barnes book, some interesting philosophical questions are posed and Barnes probes them with his characters, while remaining readable at the same time. The book can be read as a stand-alone, but is much more satisfying for those who read the first two books in the sequence.