WINNER OF THE NEBULA AWARD
After a global pandemic makes public gatherings illegal and concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music—and for one chance at human connection.
In the Before, when the government didn't prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce's connection to the world--her music, her purpose—is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.
Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery—no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she'll have to do something she's never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.
This excellent debut novel by Nebula winner Pinsker (after the collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea) establishes her as an astonishingly impressive writer of day-after-tomorrow SF. Band leader Luce Cannon is devoted to writing rock music and performing it live, even though threats of terrorism and disease have led Americans to retreat into solitude, connected only virtually. Rosemary Laws has grown up in impersonal, shallow isolation, but music awakens her, and she strains against the restrictions that are supposed to be keeping her safe. Luce plays clandestine concerts for tiny audiences while Rosemary, whose job is to find illegal musicians like Luce and build them into virtual reality stars, struggles to steer the monolithic StageHolo entertainment corporation toward more humane activity. Without shortcuts or heartstring-tugging tricks, Pinsker shows how people whose personalities and backgrounds seem incompatible can be united by art, and how the need to feel safe can be less important than the need to create together and share joy. She handles both intimate emotions and extrapolative worldbuilding with aplomb. This tale of hope and passion is a remarkable achievement.