Facts first casualty in the truth wars

If you think crying fake media is the first refuge of the scoundrel, you’ll be delighted to hear what might happen if you put artificial intelligence, revisionist history and political ultra-idealism all in the one room.

Yeah, yeah, should you really care? Maybe not, this is fiction after all, loopy theory at best. And it hangs loosely on the premise of an unnamed US president who rearranges facts into fiction at will.

If a galoot can ignore history and reality willy-nilly and get away with it, what might happen if some sharper tools in the sack decided to do likewise?

Like some shifty Holocaust deniers and US slavery deniers with a knack for picking holes in survivors’ accounts, and doing so in high-profile court cases. What might happen if, suddenly, the primary sources used to defend against such attacks disappeared?

We’re talking disappeared from the great libraries, museums and repositories of the world holding them, and from all the hidey-holes in cyber-space. A latter-day burning of the Library at Alexandria. Lots of smoke, lots of screen vacuums.

Without references, without the books and diaries and letters and official documents that hold our history, and without techno back-ups, did any of it really happen?

And what might happen if historians, academics, survivors and other high-profile figures are suddenly being killed off as well? And bookshops firebombed?

Maggie Costello is the poor sap charged with figuring the who, how and why of it all. A former special assistant to the president she’s whip-smart but a sucker for punishment.

She’s targeted by would-be killers, goes viral in a manufactured sex tape, has her voice replicated in fake conversations, half-frozen, half-baked and hung out to dry, by herself, as an emotional, lovelorn basket-case.

Frailty and courage face off with a clutch of semi-deranged college alumni convinced that the only way forward to world peace is eradicate the past. War, they argue, is simply a revenge fixation – which humans are happy to exploit back into deep time. Get rid of the official record and peace might stand a chance.

Deranged hippies with degrees, basically. But someone has a lot of money and a lot of high-tech nouse because the world’s libraries and museums are all going up in smoke one by one: in London, Oxford, Cairo, Moscow, Addis Ababa, Kolkata, Mexico City … and no amount of security seems capable of stopping the book-burning inferno.

Maggie very quickly becomes persona non grata but with the aid of a former love interest working in the shadows, deftly pokes into the right corners and spaces where such feverish plots might be hatched.

Armed with a college incubator checklist, she throws all caution and good sense to the wind as she homes in on her target. But wait, there’s a twist you don’t expect. And then another. And wait up again, there’s also …

Okay, go find out for yourself. This scoundrel’s not telling.


By Sam Bourne