The Accord, a virtual utopia where the soul lives on after death and your perceptions are bound only by your imagination. This is the setting for a tale of love, murder and revenge that crosses the boundaries between the real world and this virtual reality.
When Noah and Priscilla escape into the Accord to flee Priscilla’s murderous husband, he plots to destroy the whole Accord and them with it. In revenge they arrange to have him assassinated but their success comes at the price of giving him the keys to the virtual kingdom. How can they hope to escape their stalker when he can become anything or anyone he desires and where does the pursuit of revenge stop for immortals in an eternal world?
So, the Accord, a virtual heaven to download your memories into when you die. This is an idea that has been done before, and I’m sure it will be done again. But that’s not the point, it’s how the idea is handled that can set a novel apart from the rest – The Accord can stand out from the crowd, but too infrequently to really make a difference.
The story is a mix between the technological aspects of the Accord and its protocols (for example the way a consensus within it will govern how reality will run), the story of Noah and Prescilla and their love affair, and the hostilities between Elector Jack Burnham (Prescilla’s husband) and his quest for revenge against Noah. The Accord is the backdrop for this story of love and revenge rather than the focus, although the sections where it is explored are great and very enjoyable.
Noah is the inventor of the Accord and as such knows the protocols inside out. While many believe that it’s a one way ticket, he has back doors that he can leave through to come back to the real world, using them to continue his research to move the Accord into the quantum fabric of the universe. This leads to others discovering the shortcuts and Elector Burnham, assassinated and ending up in the Accord via his last memory back-up, managing to return to the real world by occupying the body of his accused murderer. This opens many new topics with the Accord now validated as feeling no less real than everyday life. What it really does is cement the hostile relationship between Noah and Elector Burnham, overflowing now into the real world.
Of course, once you’re in the Accord you can’t die, simply being re-created each time and continuing to live in a never ending existence. However, live and die aren’t quite the right words to use, after all it is simply your memories that are existing, not your physical self. This is one of those topics that I find very interesting and enjoy reading about, but the Accord didn’t seem to address the situations as much as I hoped. One of the problems I had with it was the fact that everything was described as going on as normal – the landscape still as it is, services seemingly unaffected, work carrying on. I can tell you quite honestly, if I died and ended up in the Accord the last thing on my mind would be working. Hell, I’d want to enjoy myself to the fullest, something which I’m pretty sure most people would do. This is where the breakdown started for me, seeing the little details that were missing. If there was an explanation for this I missed it as most of the sections focusing on the Accord and the way it runs were from a technical viewpoint, not an everyday one.
Regardless of these things, the main plot of love and revenge was handled nicely and the first half of the book was extremely readable, it was towards the end that things started to fall down. To put it simply, I felt rushed. The jumps forward, although relevant, didn’t work for me. I found myself asking what had happened in the meantime and how had life in the Accord managed and grown. The suggestions at the start pointed to a novel that I thought would focus a little more on the impact on civilisation in general with characters showing this rather than turning into a tightly focused story of three individuals. Disappointed I may have been, but the ending tied things together very nicely and finished on a high note – I just wished that the poorer second half of the novel had lived up to the expectation laid down in the first half.
The Accord is a good novel, but the smaller scale of a character focus hurt it in the long run, especially when there was such a rich and fertile topic waiting in the background in the effect of such an advancement on humanity as a whole. The Accord is a story of love and revenge set against a science fiction back drop, and it does it quite nicely. I would recommend it, but not without reservations.