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Book by Jim Freeman
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Barkley Press
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Movies, radio, television and more recently the internet each brought their own revolutions in communication, lifestyles and society. Current scientific research quietly hints at the next wave – the blending of computers with the human mind itself. Forget avatars and 3-D games, we’re on the threshold of chips in our brains that will enable us to experience the lives of the rich and famous. It’s coming, but are we ready?
EVOKE is set in the very near future – where politicians still lust for power, people drive ordinary cars to ordinary work and eat fast-food. What’s different is EVOKE – a newly available network providing not merely information or virtual reality, but a chance to become someone else for a while.

With EVOKE we can finally be in an exotic relationship, win the Masters Golf Tournament, walk the catwalk in Paris or dine at the Four Seasons. If we can be anyone and do anything online, who are we in our real lives? More importantly – who controls what we experience and distributes access to the first chips?

The characters provide an intimate look at social and political change through the eyes of people accessing EVOKE, as well as those on the outside – from the politicians who control it, to businessmen hot after its commercial potential, to ordinary people who struggle for meaning in their lives while facing unlimited pleasure.

It’s a chillingly realistic look into our future – our near future. Are you ready? Are any of us?

Reader Reviews

A real page-turner!, January 24, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Evoke (Hardcover)
Any Robert Ludlum fan will love this book. I made the mistake of starting it at bedtime, and ended up finally turning out the light at 3AM. The characters are well defined and the plot fascinating -- if a little scary. Think it couldn't happen? Think again. This was an unknown writer to me, but I will be looking forward to his next book, for sure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book About A Bad Future, May 14, 2001
This review is from: Evoke (Paperback)
The sub-title of Evoke is "a political novel". At first glance, this story of a computerised system that transmits pre-packaged experiences to people over the phone lines via implants in their brains might look like a science fiction story, but actually the technology is only a small element in the book. The Evoke system is as much a metaphor for what is happening already with television and the internet as a speculation about what technology might bring in the future. The main theme of the book is politics. It is at once an exposition of Freeman's understanding of the way American politics works - the relationships between big business, lobbyists and organised crime and the official structures of Congress and the White House inform the bulk of the plot - and a vehicle for his own views about the development of American society more generally. These are not presented in a heavy-handed or didactic manner, but through the discussions among his characters over the implications of the Evoke system. Among the themes that come up are overpopulation, disappearing resources, inequality, and what is in a way the central subject of the book: the power of big business to buy convenient policies, at whatever cost to the rest of society. It is a well-crafted book, with a great story of interwoven plot lines that leaves the reader guessing until the end. The characters cover a wide spectrum: a billionaire, a Senator from Virginia and his family, a middle-class Evoke user, a black church leader and political activist and others. The essential idea is that the experiences provided by the Evoke system are so much more compelling and attractive than real life, that once people start using it, they lose interest in doing anything else. The parallel with television is obvious, but it is an important subject, and this is a fresh way of looking at it. One thing that struck me about the political aspect of the book was that the rest of the world - the world outside the United States, that is - hardly exists. This is an accurate reflection of the attitude of most Americans, of course, and certainly of Washington politics, but still, the themes of depletion of resources, pollution, and overpopulation that arise in the book have an international or global dimension, and this is something that none of the characters ever discuss. One image from the book is that of the billionaire character (Lonny Romeri, who wants to be able to advertise his company's products in the Evoke system's direct-injection fantasies, but comes up against the Senate Committee which is responsible for regulating it), cruising with his mistress in his luxury mega-yacht up the Italian coast. The rest of the world floats past outside: it is attractive, but it is not American, and it doesn't count. What counts is the real world of billion-dollar corporate take-overs, the Los Angeles drugs business and dynastic politics in Virginia. Also peculiarly American is the Evoke fantasy world itself. The idea is that the system allows you to have any experience you like, as if you are temporarily living inside the other person's head. What Freeman's symbolic Evoke user chooses, presented with this possibility, is a pedestrian mix of Playboy Channel sex fantasies, expensive holidays and gourmet meals: plus of course sport. He plays golf as Tiger Woods, and wins wins wins. It is an image of the American Dream. The suburban loser's view of heaven. The more up-market characters don't need this kind of escape, and their world is a different kind of luxurious fantasy: of private aeroplanes and private hunting parties, all thoroughbred horses and enormous mansions. The riding sections are some of the most attractive parts of the book, with long and lovingly-written descriptive passages of cantering about in the great outdoors. The characters are well-drawn and believable on the whole, though Marty, the token Evoke user, remains something of a cipher. After the hefty suspension of disbelief that is necessary at the outset for the reader to swallow the enormous, rapid changes that are supposed to have been brought about by the Evoke system, this is a direct, realistic novel. One could perhaps lament that the Evoke users discussed don't go into the intellectual or artistic possibilities of the dream machine (the commercial possibilities being the main point of discussion). A plan for using it for educational purposes is discussed, to be fair: but might not one or two users dream of being Einstein or Picasso rather than Tiger Woods? So, corporate America wants to start running people's dreams by direct wire into their brains, and a number of important players in business and politics want to get in on it, principally for the sake of the money. Their wives, mistresses and children get caught up as the wheels grind around, and millions of people slump into apathy as they eat their virtual lobster and are pampered by their virtual Playmates. A page-turner, and full of interesting observations and ideas about American life and society, Evoke sets out a grim agenda for the century.Christopher Lord