Reviewed by Martin Bueno
In the futuristic dystopian Asian world of Benoit Chartier’s Red Nexus, citizens live in apartment buildings of staggering heights. The privileged classes bask in the sun-drenched higher levels while poor hard-working souls like the novel's hero, Wen Harkwell, languish on the sombre lower levels. And the homeless roam at the street level in near-perpetual darkness occasionally punctured by a priceless patch of light the size of a palm.
When their mothers dies, Wen, and his school-aged brother, Sammy, lose their status and are forced to eke out an existence by becoming slave labour. To make ends meet, Wen joins a group of night scavengers who work the garbage heaps of the lower streets policed by armed robots.
In Wen's world, Japanese multinational corporations like DaiSin not only dominate employees by demanding allegiance but also control them both physically and mentally with their neural electrode implants casting the population in a ‘virtual world’ similar to ‘the Matrix’ where battles are fought on a computer-generated landscape against rival organizations. Wen is drawn into one of these battles when the same multinational that took their mother kidnaps his younger brother Sammy. Wen and his friends embark on a rescue effort, transporting him “virtually” behind enemy lines. Before long, he finds himself embroiled in ever larger conflicts, which continually test his stealth, bravery and determination.
The combat scenes of this intense, highly imaginative action story would thrill any Science Fiction enthusiast. The pages explode into exciting military conquests that test loyalty to leaders and hurl motivated individuals like Wen, ever humble about his accomplishments, into leadership roles, which tests the limits of old friendships.
Benoit Chartier’s Red Nexus is as entertaining as some of the best action movies, and at the same time compels us to reflect on values we set on family, and raises disturbing questions about what could become of corporate allegiances, should we allow them to take control of us.
Red Nexus is self-published through Createspace and available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. In Ottawa, copies can be purchased from Black Squirrel Books and Books on Beechwood.