A rapidly evolving world of technology has changed the way information is gathered and disseminated, an entire growth industry rising up to meet the needs of modern communication. Need help? SatAid is on the spot, but a word away, a subscriber service that answers the customer’s immediate needs, whether in response to potential physical danger (accident, flat tire, assault) or simply a request for information.
One of the data mining companies recently gaining popularity among consumers, SatAid subscribers are assigned an Active Angel to respond to their immediate needs. Kent Selkirk is such an “Angel”, only moderately successful in human relations and far more comfortable at the end of an electronic device. In fact, Selkirk has built his life around this service to others: “The machinery for answering prayers is now in place and I am seated at its mighty center.”
Providing “seamless life-assistance interfaces” when called upon by subscribers, Kent finds this job satisfying on many levels, maintaining a modicum of intimacy that requires little commitment other than his soothing voice on the line. Content to exist in this netherworld, Kent enjoys his general anonymity, pleased to be of assistance, aware that he can execute direct surveillance should events require it for the good of the customer.
Taking the power of his job one step further, Kent requests a dossier on one of his neighbors, Sabrina Grant, whom he finds most attractive. Such an action is against the rules, but this Angel has convinced himself that he is above the norm, willing to ignore certain aspects of his position when they obstruct his self-interests.
Of a suspicious bent, when Selkirk meets Rob at a health club, he is immediately suspicious of the older man’s offer of instant friendship, a paranoia that has served him well. There is reason to doubt Rob’s veracity as he is, indeed, conducting surveillance on Selkirk, but for whom and why is left to the reader’s imagination.
Then there is the matter of Colonel Geoff, an aging, mentally-addled former agent of special ops familiar with the deepest government secrets. The colonel passes on particular information to Selkirk, sharing an arcane belief system that resonates with Kent.
The plot shifts subtly as Selkirk pursues his subversive machinations, vying with Rob for the title of technological king of the hill. Assorted other characters surface via Kent’s email, suggesting the watcher might well be the watched.
In The Unbinding, Kirn turns the age of information on its head. Agencies with an insatiable need to know are pitted against the superior imagination of a character who is hardly what he seems. The elusive Kent, a man of many faces, slides through layers of ambiguity in his latest incarnation. The clever repartee drives a caustic plot, a challenging exercise in a technology-driven universe, a satiric expose of human-electronic interface.