The Digital Dead
Sequel to the national Bestselling novel: The forge of Mars
Bruce Balfour’s 2003 sequel to The Forge of Mars — The Digital Dead — examined realistic near-future technologies that simulate immortality and how they might be used by unscrupulous marketers and politicians.
Some people would die to live forever.
“Another wild ride with alien ruins, government plots, conversations with the dead, and Egyptian gods.” (Jack McDevitt, author of Chindi)
“Dense, complex, yet easy to read and enjoy, the trappings of SF, cyberpunk and the techno-thriller are all present here, wrapped up neatly by Balfour’s prose.” (Zone SF)
The Digital Dead
Bruce Balfour, the national bestselling author of The Forge of Mars, brings us to a future age in which virtual versions of the dead control the desires of those they’ve left behind-with terrifying results.
Elysian Fields is a new company promising eternal life. Simply implant a computer chip at the back of your neck, and when you die an electronic copy of your personality will be able to live forever in a computer-generated afterlife. But virtual versions of the dead can control the desires of those they’ve left behind–and also reveal priceless secrets.
NASA researcher Tau Wolfsinger and his archaeologist girlfriend Kate suddenly find themselves trapped in a conspiracy to take over the U.S. presidency. Centering around Elysian Fields, it involves the new religion of a virtual-reality Entity, eco-cultists who survive through cybernetic implants that allow them to photosynthesize, and an incredibly powerful and malevolent artificial intelligence. To get to the truth, Tau and Kate will have to face them all as they prepare to cross the digital divide between life and death itself.
Pain walked the night, screaming victory in its dark voice of thunder.
The storm surge hit him at full force, a power elemental twisting and pulling his body apart. Waves of furious electrons rose to vast heights before thundering down on his fragile form. A spectral deathwind howled in anger. His eardrums vibrated with the cacophony of the desperate and the dying. Glittering sprites of fragmented images sprayed in confusion, blending future and past in Time’s death throes. Bands of color swirled in the darkness, punctuated by bursts of gray static in the afterglow memory of lightning. He screamed as his fingernails ripped away. Cold chills slipstreamed up his spine while tides of chaos pulsed against his back.
Torn between two worlds, Norman Meadows fought to drive air into the tortured chambers of his convulsing lungs. His chest ached with the effort.
Fire and ice. Warm red light pulsed in his head while ice blue water chilled his veins. Numbness enveloped his arms as a wave of cold rolled through his skin. Spasms knotted the muscles of his legs – dead weights that dragged him farther into the storm‑tossed depths. Static electricity crackled and popped in a manic dance across his body. Through a fog of confusion and anxiety, the rational part of his mind struggled for control, forcing him to think. He had come too far to stop now. He must fight his way out, back the way he had come, back to the safety and warmth of his home. The cryptologic sea of the digital dead sapped energy from living entities to protect the secrets of the Elysian Fields beyond. No mortal had scaled the towers of memory guarding the final gate, and Norman Meadows knew he was too weak to go farther. He would not be the first. Survival occupied his mind, focusing his efforts to escape on an adrenaline rush. His body needed fear to save his life, but the seething datastorm wanted to push him beyond his fear into panic. Spectral voices whispered in his ears, urging him to join his ancestors. Screams echoed across the vault of the sky, warning him to ignore the whispers. Fatigue oozed through his brain; a current of exhaustion swamping his thoughts. Death might get him through the gate, but that would be the easy solution. He would only succeed by coming out alive. He reached down, using his last reserve of strength to seek the golden undercurrent of reality, plunging toward the time‑space flux of energy that held the world together, diving against reason into the cold depths of the flowing darkness that preceded death. With a final lunge, hurled beyond the point of no return, his fingers burst with a golden light that flowed up his bones and into his skull.
Flash. A brilliant spear of cobalt lightning split his brain in half.
Real Mode. Blinking against the brightness, Norman gulped true air into his lungs. The electrode throbbed at the base of his skull. Through the thunder of his headache, he forced his eyes to focus on a pane of glass, then through reflected shadows on the window to the view beyond. His eyes filled with the warm clarity of a spring day. Quicksilver honey flowed down from the sun to ooze over fields of amber, stick to rivers of black asphalt, and splash the pastel blossoms of the trees with radiant highlights. Pieces of blue sky had fallen, becoming flowers that danced on the wind. Brushes of radiance punctured the clouds, painting the distant mountains with purple and violet, splattering the green canvas of the forest with yellow, orange, and crimson.
He tingled with the flow of real‑space, his senses buzzing and confused – hearing colors and tasting the silence, touching flavors and smelling the time.
Fatigued and enhanced by his digital journey, he rested until his emotions drained away and the dark tide rolled over his consciousness. When the static of the electron surge finally faded in his brain, he remembered one thing – the vast face and elemental power of the killer AI known as Firestorm, defender of the digital dead.