Part two of the Game trilogy, Buzz is information, spin control and troll management on the interwebs. Because, y’know, it’s ALL FICTION (yeah, right).
Buzz opens with HP, a thirty-something, self-serving narcissus, on the run from the Game. The Game is a real-life rewards-based ‘game’ where players serve an anonymous Game Master. It’s been a year since the conclusion of the first novel; in that time, HP miraculously avoided disaster only to be ensnared once more in Buzz.
Rebecca has been promoted, leap-frogging her superior to become his superior, an apparently arbitrary appointment. Sent to a refugee camp to protect a minister, Rebecca calls off an official meeting just before the refugees riot. Instead of applauding Rebecca’s foresight, authorities investigate Rebecca for misuse of office. Rebecca’s career is saved by Uncle Tage, an elderly gentleman who gets in touch, claiming to be a friend of her father’s. Uncle Tage doesn’t explain why he’s only in touch now, 15 or 20 years after the death of Rebecca’s father. Tage wants to get in touch with HP.
HP masquerades as his old friend Manga because no-one will notice his identity theft of a back-office IT guru’s identity by a guy with almost total IT ignorance. HP gets the job and excels at it because it’s not a back-office job: he’s paid to be an on-line troll.
Have you heard about cash for reviews? Fake identities set up to give glowing reviews? Buzz has all this and much, much more, wrapped up in a convincing IT company package with the Game ticking in the background. HP’s company owns numerous online identities they use to boost or modify online perceptions of products, legislation and attitudes. These identities, originating from different internet service providers, are maintained over an extensive time period, so people don’t realise they’re fake.
Many online trolls perpetrating flame wars are also company ‘minions’, manipulating the masses. This company also pays real people to front fake blogs. It’s all about the spin, sugar-coating or spicing machinations to help the medicine go down.
It’s real stuff and it’s scary when you start to realise this shit is really happening in the real world. The grit in Buzz feels genuine.
Game revealed Rebecca left notes in her own police locker to torment herself although, until the conclusion, it appeared the Game was tormenting Rebecca. Having exorcised her demons to some extent, Rebecca goes from self-disciplined career-oriented protagonist who never has intimate relationships with people from work to cheating on her steady boyfriend with someone from work. Like that could possibly end well. Rebecca was the more sympathetic of the two characters in Game but it seems de la Motte has it in for Rebecca, exposing her as possibly the lesser of the two siblings. [I am disappointed.]
HP and Rebecca’s relationship is definitely their weak point, a vulnerability they and others exploit, as well as endangering one another with their failure to communicate. Relatable and realistic, the Achilles heel this dysfunctional relationship creates becomes even more evident in Bubble, the third novel in the trilogy.
Buzz maintained the pace set in Game while taking on a different focus, internet spin, with the Game percolating under the surface. Internet manipulations and privacy have been a fairly consistent theme in my science fiction reading lately; Buzz handled the topic well, scaring the shit out of me (again), while creating anticipation of the final act in the Game trilogy.