Gerard Dalton. The Day of No Consequence: Part 1 Canberra. Gerald Dalton, 2012.
The Day of No Consequence: Part 1 Canberra is, of course, part of a series, self-published by the author and available as an ebook via Amazon. Each is billed as a novella, but the Canberra part at least is more like a chapter. Short, digestible, and only $1.85 each, coming to a total of $12.95 for all seven parts. I’m thinking it’s clever marketing. Entice the reader to take a chance for the price of spare change, and hopefully bring them along to buy the whole thing bit by bit.
I won’t be spending the $12.95, but that’s not, surprisingly enough, because Part 1 was terrible. It was interesting and readable and I wanted to go with the story, although speculative fiction is generally not my thing.
Anthony Troy is an astrophysicist whose job is to make assessments about the likely size, trajectory and ensuing damage that will be caused by the meteors that are hurtling towards earth. This is a common enough occurrence that there is an internationally-agreed scale of warnings based on the size and scope of the projected damage. Whole Australian coastal cities move to alternate towns such as Tamworth, Bendigo and Kalgoorlie to wait out the warning period.
This happens in the context of some kind of world-wide system of laws and governance, if not government, that requires humans to wear microchips in their armpits to track their every move, particularly in relation to their carbon footprint. Anthony feels “shielded by the shear [sic] mass of accumulated data on every individual such that he felt he was, in reality, statistically anonymous.”
While this level of surveillance might be generally accepted, it is apparently burdensome enough to warrant an annual event when the system closes down for 24 hours, and it is forbidden “to monitor or utilise any information which could lead to the conviction of an individual for a crime committed on the Day of No Consequence.” Of course, Anthony has revenge on his mind, and the Day of No Consequence is the day to put plans into action. Turns out, he’s not alone.
None of this has very much to do with Canberra. In fact, most of the action takes place at the Sheraton Resort on Denarau Island, Fiji. Anthony does take the train (mindful of his carbon quota) to Campbelltown to liaise with a criminal or two, a segue I found quite amusing, given that I grew up in Campbelltown. Canberra’s contribution is as the location of the Space Watch Centre at Mount Stromlo, where the importance of Anthony’s job consumes all of his energy, leaving him powerless to save his daughter, his marriage or in the end, his wife.
If I had more energy I could pursue all sorts of metaphors for the trade-off between the global and the personal in Canberra and in our own lives. There are some interesting ideas here about where we might find the balance between personal privacy and societal security in the age of ubiquitous surveillance, big data and global terrorism.
The author lives in Dublin, and it is curious that he chose Mount Stromlo and Canberra (and even more interesting is the Campbelltown reference). The other locations for the series are perhaps less surprising: Rome, London, Tehran, Paris, Los Angeles and ‘New Baghdad’. All the research required, though, is a bit of googling (and maybe some better map reading – it’s Kellicar Road in Campbelltown, not Killinger Road. I learned to drive there. The other location references are all correct, so this looks like an error, perhaps by an overzealous spellchecker, to me).
Still, it’s nice to know that we have a place in the mind of the futurists, sitting amongst the hills, scanning the skies and helping to save the world.