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    CANDLE by John Barnes

    Tor Book, Tom Doherty Associates, 2000

    In a world where self-programming computer viruses have finally bridged the gap between hardware computers and the human brain, Currie Curran is a cowboy hunter--a man whose purpose in life is to hunt down the uninfected and spread the virus. Curran's virus, the 'One True' is represented by individual 'Resuna' units who help share experience across individuals and encourage everyone to repair the ecological damages that decades of warfare have created. Curran is called back from retirement to hunt down the last cowboy.

    When the last cowboy, 'Lobo' turns the tables and captures Curran, Curran finds himself free of his Resuna for the first time in decades. While he reclaims his memories and forms a friendship with Lobo, Curran cannot see any way for humanity to learn his lessons. The ecological nightmare created by decades of war has destroyed too much of this evocatively distopian world. Humans must work together and One True, through Resuna, ensures that they do. Yet even One True recognizes the stifling loss that it has created.

    Barnes' prose (see more reviews of novels by this author) lets the reader feel the cold and see the destruction that the 'Meme Wars' created. The concept of a largely benevolent, yet self interested computer virus infecting human brains is both intriguing and well developed. Curran's dilemna is real and defies an easy solution. Curran straddles the wall between hero and manipulated victim of a system he did not create. The resolution of the novel might be a little disappointing to some as it does not result from the personal growth and choices of Curran.

    Three Stars

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