Cover image for The fourth world
The fourth world
Danvers, Dennis.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Avon Eos, 2000.
Physical Description:
336 pages ; 22 cm
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When footloose American Santee St. John first meets Margaret Mayfield in Central America, he is technically still working for NewsReal--as a living camera hired to record real-time events that will enhance the virtual experiences of millions of Web slaves. But Santee has lost his taste for the job, having been informed that the cold-blooded massacre of innocents by government troops in the troubled Mexican state of Chiapas--a horrific, life-altering event he witnessed, absorbed and dutifully recorded---will never be made public. In Santee, Margaret recognizes a kindred spirit--a soul out of place in the modern Web-dominated world; a potential crusader, enraged by the suffering and senseless bloodshed, yet enchanted, like she, by the vibrant life in this timeless, paradoxical place called Mexico. Soon after meeting, Santee and Margaret are working together for the noble--if seemingly doomed--Zapatista cause. And soon after that, they are lovers, in the most intense and truest sense of the word.

Until Santee vanishes into the lush and dangerous wilds of the Third World.

Though she has lost all touch with him, Margaret knows Santee is still alive. His enemies have reported him dead---but his coffin contains the body of someone else. Now, with the aid of Webster Webfoot---a teenage "webkicker" who has rejected the virtual life enthusiastically embraced by most of the world--Margaret is abandoning a desolate Texas "rack-and-stack" wasteland to return to the onl

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In a world with a hyperreal Internet and advanced technology for those who can afford it, the poor have become even more disenfranchised and invisible. In addition, the Web news presents stories from the point of view of its wealthy, powerful owners. When Santee St. John, his eyes and ears a virtual Web camera, witnesses the massacre of a tiny Chiapas village by Mexican paramilitary forces, he is outraged and sickened. After trying to report the crime to his supremely uninterested employer, he meets Margaret Mayfield, an idealistic American who has lived in Mexico for years and loves the culture and spirit of its people. Traveling together, the two fall in love and actively seek out the Zapatista revolutionaries, who, after 20 years of struggling, still strive to reclaim land from the bloated land barons. Santee and Margaret concoct a scheme to flood the Web with the sights and sounds of the real Mexico by implanting thousands of peasants with a virtual interface, using Santee as the carrier. Margaret grows suspicious, however, at the ease with which the plan is carried out. With the help of delivery boy Webster Webfoot and his orbital-tech girlfriend, she uncovers a worldwide plot of enormously vile proportions. This is one of those rare sf novels that combines human warmth and political insight in an unflinching look at the possible price of technology. --Roberta Johnson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Unabashedly leftist in its politics, Danvers's new novel (after Circuit of Heaven) is set in and around an early 21st-century Mexico that has been all but destroyed by NAFTA, GATT and the WTO. Although Mexico's corrupt leaders have become enormously wealthy, the country is now little more than a source of cheap labor and raw materials for a United States that no longer even pretends to care about human rights. North of the border, most Americans spend their days in windowless rooms, wired into virtual reality on the Web, almost totally disconnected from the real world. Santee St. John, an American journalist working for NewsReal on the WWW, records the massacre of hundreds of Indian farmers in Chiapas in Mexico and is incensed when he discovers that his company won't run the story. Learning that he was sent to witness the killings so that NewsReal could use his footage to blackmail its way into media prominence in Mexico, Santee is soon recruited by Zapatista sympathizer Margaret Mayfield. Joining the Indians in their decades-long revolution against the corrupt Mexican government, Santee and Mayfield uncover both a sordid plot to use the Web to enslave numerous people and hints that the planet may be on the brink of environmental collapse. Danvers's political enthusiasm is refreshing. His rather black-and-white worldview may alienate conservative readers, however, and the quite literal deus ex machina he employs at book's end isn't well seeded. Still, this exciting cyberthriller, with its near-utopian conclusion, should please readers of a more liberal stripe, particularly fans of the novels of Kim Stanley Robinson and Bruce Sterling. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-In this witty, near-future thriller, the promise of a democratic global village in cyberspace has failed. Instead, there is the dystopian "Fourth World" of the Web, where citizens of the industrialized First World have sacrificed authenticity for the "virtual" freedom and physical security of an almost wholly imagined life. Meanwhile, in Chiapas and neighboring states of Third World Mexico, economically impoverished indios are engaged in a seemingly hopeless revolution against a totalitarian government backed by global corporate interests. In this satiric, political, playfully literary tale, a few colorful First World individuals find themselves in Mexico, enlisting in the cause of the Zapatistas. Among the characters attempting-in an idealistic, nave, and dangerously blundering way-to "do the right thing" are Santee, a Web journalist; Margaret, an ecotourist guide of strongly leftist convictions (Santee falls in love with her); "Webster Webfoot," one of the most colorful and engaging adolescents of recent fiction; Starr, Webster's girlfriend on the Web; and Zack, an aging, apolitical hippie. As their destinies converge, they uncover an imminent holocaust, hack their way into the body of Goliath, and find a surprisingly acceptable route to the future. Teens who liked Joseph Heller's Catch 22 (S & S, 1994), Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins (Farrar, 1971), or William Gibson's cyberpunk novels of the `80s and `90s should relish this one.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.