There’s something you don’t see a lot of on the market these days: social science fiction. When you do see it, it tends to have general ideals down, but does little to address major issues of today. The Unincorporated Man tries to do this to an extent, though falls a little short. It’s not a total loss by any means, so let’s explore…
The entire notion behind The Unincorporated Man is that society can shift falling an economic catastrophe. The result is a world where everyone is a corporation, and from birth, shares of a person are taken by parents and the government. Shares are exchanged between siblings and spouses, and traded on the open market. A person’s primary goal in life is to gain a 51% majority of their own stock.
While reanimation or stasis has become commonplace, an excavation reveals a 300-year-old pod containing billionaire Justin Cord, one of the richest men of the early twenty-first century. Justin is a great character, dynamic and intelligent, able to mostly adapt to the world he finds himself in. He doesn’t care for the notion of being incorporated and, since he was born before the Great Collapse, he thinks such a notion is slavery.
Against him is corporate representative Hektor Sambianco, an equally relentless believer in personal incorporation. His legal tricks and plans are multi-layered, making him just as fascinating character. Since the book is presented in a third-person omniscient, it’s easy to root for Hektor and Justin at the same time, even if their goals are mutually exclusive.
The marks against the book are a bit more lengthy, so I’ll start with the most recent first, the omniscient. Often, there are sequences that follow characters for little reason other than to show something else in this weird world. The brothers Kollin jump around with their focus a little too often, causing the plot to derail frequently. Indeed, this is where the book stumbles, but does not fail.
The brothers Kollin also share great political and philosophical insight with the setting. While these do come up at natural points in the story, these points go on too long and kill any momentum that had been built up. Sometimes these periods of theorizing grow so thick, not even the strength of the characters can restore even a portion of the momentum. One key section showing the VR museum illustrates this flaw. Instead of allowing Justin to see the horrors of what VR did to the world, Neela, Justin’s guide to the future, lectures him before and after the experience, which is pretty damn awful. I say lecture, which isn’t totally right or wrong. Usually the characters accept this sort of information dump, but reading the book, I got tired of it.
I will also admit something else about The Unincorporated Man. I stopped reading on page 300. It’s not that I was disgusted with the story or the characters, I just didn’t care for the presentation and the plot had grown thin. In a lot of ways, I thought I was reading the same arguments over and over and was hoping something might change. It didn’t. I skimmed through the remainder and found what bits I read predictable in almost every way. Only one character’s outcome was a surprise, but I didn’t feel compelled to find out what happened.
In short The Unincorporated Man has great characters and good ideas, but falls short on use of omniscient tense and plot. And there are two sequels.