Ralf is a software prodigy. He works in the US government office that updates the software in the population's boosts—networked supercomputers contained in a chip implanted within the brains of 99 percent of the world’s population. Invented by Chinese researchers in 2032, the boost is credited with leading humanity to its most significant cognitive leap since the discovery of fire.
Days before a national upgrade, Ralf notices that the update includes an open surveillance gate—meaning that Americans, who had negotiated high levels of privacy with the Chinese manufacturers, will now be subjected to the invasive Chinese standard. Ralf attempts to hack the boost, but is caught by agents working for Washington’s preeminent lobbyist. His boost is ripped from his head, and Ralf barely escapes with his life.
Pursued by the lobbyist’s mercenary cadre, Ralf flees to the US–Mexico border, where there are others like him—“wild” humans on the fringes of society, unenhanced by technology. It’s a frightening and backward world controlled by powerful drug lords. Ralf’s only hope is to somehow work with these wild bosses of the analog world—in hopes of winning back freedom in the digital one.
SUNDAY, MARCH 6, 2072: TEN DAYS BEFORE THE NATIONAL COGNITIVE UPDATE
9:02 a.m. Central Standard Time
“The way you talk, I can tell you’re wild,” she says.
He has just awoken. From DC to the Mississippi he slept like a corpse. He stirred briefly to glimpse down at the mighty river, and then fell into another long nap. Now he pauses, trying to collect his thoughts. Their burnt orange Sheng-li is driving itself west along a lonely stretch of I-40. Oklahoma scenery flies past their windows at a constant