CHANDELIER is the genre-bending follow-up of Michael Leon’s 2019 fantasy-romance novel, PHANTOMS.
Set a hundred years into the future, AI has achieved super intelligence and surpassed human knowledge, and yes humanity’s existence had been challenged. However, AI developed a solution, residing in their own ‘Virtual Earth’, leaving humans, now a minority, to share an environmentally damaged Earth with post-humans, technologically enhanced humans who are the dominant species.
This uneasy alliance is governed under the watchful eye of AI. AI sentients, near perfect human replicas, have been developed as a method of better understanding humans. They possess only some of the vast cognitive powers of AI’s residing in Virtual Earth. Unaware of their origins, they believe they are human.
This is the story of one such sentient, Benny, a talented musician, who is hired by a famous opera singer, Madame D’Arenberg (Diva), to help fulfill her final performance at the Garnier. Benny initially welcomes the opportunity, before he is swept up in the Phantom’s world, exposing him to the deadly web cast over two centuries and the awful truth about Diva’s life.
Read Excerpt One: Benny and Diva
Hotel patrons streamed in from all corners of Paris SC (Super City) into Benny's world. The high-level retreat filled with an atmospheric fog, not from long-banned substances, but personal coms, permanently activated by the long-haulers, post-humans who congregated after a fifty straight hours shift. Some welcomed Benny's music but most preferred the personalised entertainment from their com. A few humans, 'old gen's' were scattered around the room, mostly aids accompanying wealthy post-humans, the new elite.
Benny practised scales masquerading as background music before turning his talents to playing neoclassical noir in an attempt to break through their digital wall of indifference. Halfway into the musical arrangement, he scaled up the digital accompaniment, unable to play the piano's challenging set. The loss of control baffled him. What was usually easy could become an alarming challenge as his mind struggled to connect the paper's voluminous notes with his hand coordination. He played the more straightforward accompaniment with his good right hand. No one seemed to notice his struggle. He glanced across to the best tables, lining the panoramic view of the whirlpool of districts spiking web-like across the super city, housing the vast majority of the French population. They weren't even interested in Paris's most lovely view. Why should they care about his music?
The views that evening offered a special treat. Stars momentarily appeared in the sky, a rare event as the permanently thick cumulus layers choked the Earth's post-industrial stratosphere. A clearer view lay below. Climate roads cut green lines between a vast sea of regenerated buildings. Their cloud scraper fronted a 'farmlane', the largest of the old highways approved for farming under artificial 'sunstrips' where autonomous croppers tended to the super-city's food chain.
Benny was the only unaccompanied human in the house. He relished the challenge of drawing post-humans attention from their virtual lives, but most nights, he failed, playing his heart out to phantoms, no longer fascinated by the natural world. Surprisingly, one table was taking an interest.
Listen to the Podcast: Benny and Diva
Like the excerpt? Listen to the PODCAST Benny and Diva, and hear the song that motivated the story, CHANDELIER. (Note: the podcast is still being developed and will be available in April)
The Prequel: Phantoms
If you like the sound of CHANDELIER, read the prequel, PHANTOMS, available in Amazon. Click on the book cover for details.
Win the tour prize! Go to the LINK to enter.