Andy Giesler’s Three Grams of Elsewhere is a cyberpunk political thriller set in the future that explores how ideological polarization and techno-social isolation give rise to hate.
Harmony “Bibi” Cain, a gifted empath, unwittingly helped develop military drone technology built on the brain’s empathy structures to help the American Midwest retain sovereignty during a second civil war. Raised a pacifist, Bibi’s actions left him with psychic scars, sending him into civilian life where he helped found a renowned detective agency.
Now he’s retired alongside his PI partners, including more-than-a-friend Candice “Dys” Altamirano, whose emotional void provides a balm to Bibi’s hypersensitive empathy. Together, they’re forced from retirement when a series of grisly assassinations using astonishingly advanced drones targets prominent empaths. The event pits the balkanized nations of the former U.S. against one another and places Bibi under suspicion. But surrounded by security operatives trained to betray no emotion and doxxed by social media anarchists, who can he trust? And what’s the real reason for these attacks?
Bibi narrates most chapters in a conversation with unnamed entities. These are interspersed with interviews conducted by a biographer after Bibi’s mysterious death, as well as scholarly snippets on the scientific exploration of human empathy and the religious roots of Bibi’s childhood. The provocative structure nurtures mystery while holding a mirror to modern America’s fractious politics. Although deploying cyberpunk themes that integrate biology with technology, it defies the cynicism so pervasive in the genre by injecting an earnest, even spiritual dimension.
If there’s any criticism of Three Grams of Elsewhere, it’s that readers may be left wanting to further explore some characters. But the corollary is that Giesler has created a world so full that it seems to echo beyond its pages—a story written so well that, no matter how perfect, surprising, and complete the ending, readers will want to return in search of even more.
It’s just that good.