Genre: YA Sci-fi (subgenre: alternate history with elements of cyberpunk)
Word Count: 97,000
My main character's most stressful relationship is with Canberra Clark, Urbania’s answer to Oscar Wilde. The flamboyant fop both charms and defends her, but his thirst for fame may tear them apart in this vain city. While Sofia attempts to expose and destroy Plexus for its shameless exploitation, Canberra is handpicked to become their next big star. Coincidence? Sofia thinks not. But can she convince Canberra to see that he’s merely being used as a pawn and to give up his long sought-after moment in the spotlight?
In 1905, America remains under British rule, and the Digital Age takes place a hundred years earlier on the tail of the Industrial Revolution. In the glitzy and glamorous city of Urbania, where girls wear corsets, boys wear makeup, and shopping is the favored pastime, the advertising and entertainment industries have married into one big conglomerate: Plexus. Citizens are being filmed and targeted for marketing at all times by “publicams” and even their own handheld devices. Anyone can become The Story, and Plexus can make someone a star…or a public mockery.
After losing her friend to a humiliation suicide, 16-year-old Sofia Hart meets Tallinn at the funeral. This odd but charismatic stranger from outside the city encourages her to start a rebellion against Plexus and bring back the archaic notion of something called “privacy.”
When Sofia releases videos about the deadly form of mind control Plexus uses to manipulate consumers, she is summoned to a meeting. But instead of punishing her, Plexus offers her a job on the inside—exploiting the very people she is trying to liberate. Unable to resist this chance to get inside information, Sofia immerses herself in an elite, secret department of Plexus, where she’s pampered and privileged. Once she discovers the publicams’ reach extends into bathrooms, dressing rooms, and even people’s homes, she sends a mass message that incites mob action.
On her exodus to escape with Tallinn, he takes her through the slum-city of Irontown, where Ubrania’s merchandise is made in dilapidated factories—by children. Sofia now realizes she must return and lead the revolution against Plexus, ending their oppression once and for all. But as Urbania’s most wanted fugitive, Sofia risks becoming the next victim of Plexus’ sinister “corrections” when they rewrite someone’s story to end in yet another tragic humiliation suicide.
I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who notices this world we live in. Take this train car for instance—the brass plate on the wall says it was constructed in 1895, but it looks much older than a mere ten years. I bet it was rather swanky when it was new, all bright red velvet and polished oak. Now, after only a decade of use, it seems to have lost its luster. Most of the dark wooden seats are missing their original velvet cushions, and the few that remain are threadbare and torn, spilling gray stuffing material. Overhead, in the rows of globed incandescents that line both sides of the ceiling, the burned-out bulbs nearly outnumber the lit ones. Yet, nobody seems to care. Most of the people on this car are staring into the amber bio-luminescence of their crux screens, so they don’t even notice the neglect.
When the train screeches to a stop, I wave to Victoria, standing on the platform in her velvet corset and new striped pants—super tight.
“She’s wearing gas pipes,” I announce to Canberra, who hasn’t looked up from his shopping. This gets his attention.
Before Vic boards, he whips his head around to inspect her ensemble.
“She still has that short haircut. Looks like it’s been sucked by a cat.”
“Oh, behave,” I say. “I think it’s flattering. Shows off her eyes.”
Now I shut up. Too much chatter might attract the attention of the publicams that gaze over us.