Philip K. Dick would have loved the new novel Influx by Daniel Suarez. Let’s face it, Philip K. Dick was one of the most paranoid writers that ever existed. He was all about secret government conspiracies and a future where all power is concentrated in the hands of an elite few. His stories inspired the movies Blade Runner and Minority Report.
Influx takes place not in the distant future or in another country, but in current day America. It answers the question as to why we are not further along technologically. After all, the book points out, we landed on the Moon in 1969. Are Facebook and internet porn really the best technological advances the world was able to come up with since then?
The answer is that for decades the U.S. Government has been keeping the truly advanced inventions out of the hands of the masses. There is a secret Bureau of Technology Control (BTC) which intervenes if a genius scientist makes a breakthrough which is deemed too dangerous. In a clever twist, one of the ways the BTC keeps tabs on these scientists is to secretly fund their research. Scientists who think they have won grants from charities or universities are really unknowingly working for a government agency.
But what happens to the inventions? The key word in BTC is “Control”. The BTC does not want to stop new technologies, it just wants to control them. Of course that is the problem. Over the years the control of secret advances has made the BTC more and more powerful. It has reached the point where the idea of taking orders from the elected leaders of the government seems unnecessary.
This is a excellently written and exciting book, even for people who are not normally science fiction fans. Could there be a U.S. government agency that becomes so powerful and technologically advanced that it no longer feels it has to report to anyone? Well, just replace the letters BTC with NSA and the story does not seem far fetched at all.