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The timeline was only about ~20-30 years out. It takes place mostly NYC and has a huge emphasis on the influence of the media, guns, and race relations in the US.

One of the protagonists hosts a radio show and has significant influence. A major driver of the plot is this guy's daily broadcast that focuses on gossip. Another protagonist is a performer with some superhuman ability to connect with people emotionally. The final protag is a soldier of some kind that turns out to be an AI housed in a man's body.

South Africa is a huge political influence on what happens in the States. It seems like this was written in the apartheid era because race is at the forefront. Other major players are the mental health institution (who planned on literally institutionalizing everyone) and an megacorp that makes weapons, tech, and sells arms (from guns up to Ironman-esque power suits) door to door. There is even a section where riot control and suppressing the poor with violence is described as a casual civic duty like jury duty.

I really have no idea how popular this book was/is or when it was published. There was a common pattern of Dr. Seuss naming where common things became "widgets" and "gidgets" that made it a more difficult read than it had to be. So far I've had no luck with searches or other forums. Overall it was very enjoyable and I'd recommend it if you guys happen to find out the title.

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    "So far I've had no luck with searches or other forums." Did you ever find anything it might be that you can rule out? – TheLethalCarrot Mar 26 at 16:41
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    @5AM - A list of things that it isn't would be very helpful – Valorum Mar 26 at 16:47
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    Wow I just found it while trying to answer your questions. It's The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner. Thanks guys! Do I just uhh close this question now? – 5AM Mar 26 at 16:53
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    Don't close it! Someone else might have the same question someday. You can answer your own question and then we will have a record of it. – DavidW Mar 26 at 16:55
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    @5AM Post your own answer to the question and accept it, if you're feeling helpful. This site works as a Q&A database, so although now you don't really need the answer, having it posted as an answer is useful for future readers (the answer should explain how the details match, see other identification questions) – JMac Mar 26 at 16:55
14

The book is The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner.

The novel is set in the United States in 2014, when interracial tensions have passed the breaking point. A Mafia-like cartel, the Gottschalks, are exploiting this situation to sell weapons to anyone able to buy them. A split develops within the cartel, between the conservative old men and ambitious underlings prepared to use new computer technology to pull off some spectacular coups.

There are several separate strands of narrative following particular characters. James Reedeth is a young psychologist at New York's major mental health institution who is disenchanted with his job and his employer, the revered Elias Mogshack. Lyla Clay is a "pythoness," a young woman capable of metabolising certain psychedelic drugs to enter a trance in which she makes unconscious predictions. Matthew Flamen, a "spoolpigeon" (a variety of investigative journalist), is struggling to hold onto his job, and by his obsessive behaviour has driven his wife into Mogshack's asylum.

The plot is contrived to bring the strands together and resolve matters by a lengthy discussion between Flamen, Reedeth, Lyla Clay, Pedro Diablo (Flamen's African-American counterpart), Xavier Conroy (a long-time critic of Mogshack), and Harry Madison (a former patient at Mogshack's asylum).

I was way off in my date estimation, it's crazy how well the tech was predicted. I found it from a "top X dystopian sci-fi novel" list. Thanks for the probing questions

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    If you could add how any details from the story might match your question, it would make it far easier for future readers to determine if this is what they are looking for. – JMac Mar 26 at 17:06
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    An excellent and underrated novel. Or maybe not underrated, just never heard of. – davidbak Mar 26 at 21:19

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