eric-lotke-2044.thumbnail.JPGThere’s a very simple reason why I love science fiction, almost to the exclusion of all other genres: It’s the worlds.  All fiction has plot and character and dialogue, but only science fiction (okay, fantasy too) has that extra creative dimension of a different world, a different future, a different reality in every book.  So at the same time I’m paying attention to the plot and character and dialogue, I’m also exploring the world the author has invented.

The world Eric Lotke has created in 2044 is a progressive’s nightmare.  Almost every exasperating trend we see today has been extrapolated to its logical extreme:  Mindless fear of terrorism is used to manipulate the populace.  Giant conglomerates control the economy, the news media, the government, and even the cops.  Small businesses and entrepreneurs are ruthlessly crushed by cutthroat pricing, lawsuits, and police brutality.  There are no unions in sight, and employees have no rights or recourse.  The class divide has grown and calcified, with the poor living in near-shantytown squalor while the rich live in lavish mini-skyscrapers and never interact with commoners.

And yet, the world of 2044 is not as nakedly dystopian as that of 1984.  The corporations rule through manipulation rather than overt oppression – as long as everyone stays in their lane and does what they’re supposed to, they can be perfectly happy.  Where 1984 was a bleak prison camp with guards and cameras and barbed wire, 2044 is a well-manicured lawn with an invisible fence.

And what happens when someone unwittingly crosses that invisible fence and gets zapped for the first time?  Therein lies the plot.

2044 is a thriller about a product engineer named Malcolm Moore who receives a mysterious vial that magically transforms seawater into fresh water, which has become very scarce and expensive.  And as positive and profitable as such a discovery sounds, it quickly becomes apparent that powerful forces will do literally anything to suppress it.  Malcolm’s apartment is burglarized and the vial stolen, and everyone who might know how to get more is either dead or bought off.

With advice and support from disillusioned corporate lawyer and single mother Jessica Frey, Malcolm attempts to use his job as a cover to reproduce the miraculous desalination agent without tipping off the bad guys.  You might say that he’s partially successful…