I'm trying to identify the name of a sci-fi book I read ~5-10 years ago. I don't remember a lot of plot points - but rather a handful of what feel like miscellaneous details, so I apologise if this reads incoherently.

I believe it takes place hundreds of years in the future. The main character was "Carlos the Terrorist." He got his title because he had an unofficial agreement with a government to blow up a passenger plane. The deal did not go according to plan and Carlos died.

Through some technological means Carlos' brain was saved. He was trialled and is brought back into a sort of digital reality where he is tasked with leading a combat mission - of which he is only given sparse details. He was also celebrated upon arriving in this reality. I think the other humans there were also various criminals who recognised him even after however many years he'd been dead.

In his mission, he and his squad inhabit the bodies of ~3foot tall robots that he felt were inadequate for the mission. After the first mission, one of his squad mates committed suicide as he believed that was the way out of this digital reality.

The combat mission is to take care of some robots that achieved sentience through fighting each other over what ground belonged to which corporation and in order to try to gain an advantage they modelled how the other robot was modelling itself. When these robots tried to share this knowledge with the other ones on what I believe was an unnamed moon, some joined in sentience whereas a majority shut down - seeing this sentience as a malware of sorts.

The society is egalitarian from what I remember, and it had a 100% inheritance tax. The corporations I previously mentioned were ran by AIs that were facsimiles of humans - set up as a past time for the remaining humans to trade various stocks whilst not having to be in the companies themselves.

There was a character in the virtual reality who could seemingly float because he had literal "mind over matter" and he was described at one point as accessing a 'mind palace' of sorts. Additionally, towards the end of the book the digital reality is described as downgrading in detail - first down to black and white then indescribably more basic.

I believe this was to be the first book in a series but I never followed up, and attempts to google this characters name keep referring me back to "Carlos the Jackal" who appears to have been a real life terrorist.

1 Answer 1


Dissidence, the first book of the Corporation Wars series by Ken MacLeod:

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They've died for the companies more times than they can remember. Now they must fight to live for themselves.
Sentient machines work, fight and die in interstellar exploration and conflict for the benefit of their owners - the competing mining corporations of Earth. But sent over hundreds of light-years, commands are late to arrive and often hard to enforce. The machines must make their own decisions, and make them stick.
With this new found autonomy come new questions about their masters. The robots want answers. The companies would rather see them dead.

Carlos the Terrorist works with a virtual reality set and he is tasked with destroying a Chinese jet. He does this, but it happens over the London Docklands area and causes not only the destruction of the plane but also widespread destruction on he ground. His employers then betray him, and he dies at the end of the first chapter.

Another thump overhead. The whole room shook. Sinister cracking noises followed, then a hiss. Carlos began to think of fleeing to a deeper level. He reached for his emergency backpack of kit and supplies. The ceiling fell on him. Carlos struggled under an I-beam and a shower of fractured concrete. He couldn’t move any of it. The hiss became a torrential roar. White vapour filled the room, freezing all it touched. Carlos’s eyes frosted over. His last breath was so unbearably cold it cracked his throat. He choked on frothing blood. After a few seconds of convulsive reflex thrashing, he lost consciousness. Brain death followed within minutes.

Carlos is then revived in the thirty second century and told that even though he's a reviled terrorist he is needed by the government of the day to help deal with the self aware robots.

The series runs to three books, Dissidence, Insurgence and Emergence, and Carlos features in all of them.

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