In a world of accelerating climate change and rising sea-levels, the new real estate is the bandwidth needed to run the feed, a post-Internet that everyone relies on and to which access determines whether a country is first or third-world. Real Man with a Troubled Past Dag Calhoun (yes, he really is called that) is a lobbyist who belatedly realises he is a corporate scumbag following the assassination of the Mexican politician he was about to seal a deal with and – worse! – the appearance of Dag’s entire life printed out on paper and stuck to the walls of a hotel room. Does Dag clear this incriminating evidence from the room? No, he leaves it to the cleaners. Does Dag utilise the resources of his formidable employer to understand how this impossible security breach happened? No. Why? Because the plot says so. In the meantime, he is haunted by the woman in a red dress (DANGER! Hasn’t Dag seen The Matrix?) who led him to the hotel room and then disappeared.
Back in the safety of the US, parts of which are constantly on fire because climate change, Dag finds that the woman is part of a cabal who have hacked the Commonwealth, the firm that runs the feed. This, we find out eventually, is why Dag acts so incomprehensibly, although the revelation comes too late for the confused reader. The cabal is made up of people who were in foster care or care homes but are awesome because they are geniuses and thus naturally overcame their horrific starts in life – just like Dag did.
There are loads of sob stories shoe-horned into the narrative that are supposed to make you feel something as the sub-Lee Child-does-near-future plot potters about and the author jumps in frequently with lines like ‘Idealism was a strange house to enter via a broken window’. Despite a decent analysis of disaster capitalism – fossil fuel lobbyists want the environment screwed up so previously unwanted land they’ve bought for peanuts suddenly becomes valuable – the book doesn’t so much explore issues as list things anyone with a functioning brain is furious about already.