Revising the Netwalk books reveals just how political the Martiniere Legacy books–both the main series and the multiverse series–actually are. While Sarah Stephens is an old politico, Diana Andrews is a reluctant political leader, and we see a certain amount of organizational politics within the Corporate Courts, those books just aren’t political. They focus more on organizational and family structures, and the dynamics of power within interpersonal relationships. But there are no issues that could be classified as political. Certainly no significant social commentary. Some discussion of agency on a personal level.
Then again, some would argue that choosing to focus on four generations of powerful women dealing with a particular technology is a political choice in and of itself. I won’t argue with that.
But overall, the fact remains that the Netwalk Sequence books are really just not that political a series.
The Martiniere Legacy, however–
As I mentioned in a previous post about writing and politics, one of the reasons why I downplayed a certain degree of political content in the Netwalk Sequence was that I was still actively teaching. I erred on the side of caution, but, honestly, I also didn’t exactly have the skill level to insert much about politics in those books that wouldn’t look like overt preaching.
The Legacy doesn’t have that excuse. And, considering the main books were drafted in 2020 and 2021, it’s only logical that politics bled over into the series. While the series isn’t necessarily about politics, oh is it ever political.
First off, one part of this world includes indentured servitude for people who can’t pay off their debts. Of course, things go drastically wrong with indenture right away. Just because someone signs a five-year contract doesn’t mean that they are released from their servitude at the end of that five years–I don’t go into those details, but it’s referenced as a secondary plot point in the third book, Realization, and a little bit in the second book, Ascendant. The possibility of Brandon, Ruby, and Gabe being forced into indenture as a result of Brandon’s gamble that including his estranged parents in the AgInnovator agtech funding game show will earn a certain number of clicks in order to pay off his own debt drives the first book, Inheritance.
But the ramifications of indenture continue to unfold.
Thirty-some years before the opening of Inheritance, in Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere, Gabriel Martiniere testifies in Federal court against the Martiniere Group experimenting with mind control on unwilling indentured people (note: a mind control technology that was first used upon members of the Martiniere Family first–Gabe provides an unwilling demonstration of it in action when it is triggered during his testimony) . That testimony forces him into exile and leads into a whole lot of other complications. Winning free from those mind control elements is just part of Gabe’s story.
Reproductive rights is a huge part of the Legacy. We see that most clearly in Ascendant, where two formerly indentured women who are part of the Family need to have hormonal leftovers in their indenture identification tattoos removed. As part of the process, we also learn that Gabe’s sister Justine has spent years as the secret organizer behind an organization called Rescue Angel, providing reproductive services to people in need. As we learn in Justine’s book, Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality, the combination of Justine’s work with the Rescue Angel and the demand from the Family that she step up to fix things that her brother Joseph and father Philip have messed up within the Martiniere Group leads to her divorce from Donald Atwood. Her marriage to Donald was somewhat pragmatic in the beginning–she marries him to escape the coercion from Philip that she marry a much older man allied with Philip.
Tied in with reproductive rights is–well–women’s rights. The Martiniere Family possesses a lot of misogyny, starting with the internal requirements of male leadership based on Salic Law–the Martinieres descend from the Valois family, have married into the Bourbons, are also descendants of the Medicis and the Borgias. Gabe doesn’t agree with those structures. Justine is only allowed access to power within the Group because Philip sees her as neuter–a severe case of hydatidiform mole in her one pregnancy results in a hysterectomy. Another powerful Family woman, Kendra, dies with her family under suspicious circumstances after she allies with Justine. And even though the Matriarch of the Martinieres, Donna, is acknowledged to possess some power (due to her role in developing the mind control programming), her abilities and access are restrained by Family structures.
And even though Gabe is somewhat liberated, he still has unconscious elements of the Family’s misogyny, manifesting as protectiveness. His hope that not telling Ruby who he really is will keep her safe goes violently awry when mind control structures are used first to silence him, then force him into divorce. His choice to support his second wife’s oldest brother in taking mercenary action against Philip Martiniere’s not-so-subtle attempts to make himself a petty dictator in the Southwest leads to Rafe Alvarez’s death, and Rachel’s estrangement from her family.
Even after his true identity is revealed, Ruby has to kick Gabe’s butt a few times to stop him from being so protective.
And then there’s Philip Martiniere’s quixotic political ambitions. Philip clearly studied several contemporary politicians (we will mention no names, but…). He developed a religious cult, the Electric Born, coupled with secret research labs to take mind control even farther than the Martiniere Group could dream. He had a notion to force his grandson, Brandon (Ruby and Gabe’s son) into becoming the indentured, cyborged head of a private military force. He experimented with cloning–both physical and digital–as a means toward immortality.
Philip also bargains for a leadership role in a splinter political party. By 2059, I postulate four major political parties in the United States–The Real Truthers (extreme right wing Republicans), Honest Republicans (centrist Republican of the old school, the Never-you-know-who faction), Classic Democrats (centrist Democrats) and New Democrats (classic liberals, not Democratic Socialists or Justice Democrats). Of course, Philip hews to the Real Truthers.
But–nothing is as it seems. Gabe gets into a sticky situation with the New Democratic President in Realization. His daughter-in-law Pat Markey ends up running for President, with Gabe’s financial support. We don’t get much deeper than that into electoral politics, however. One reason why I made that choice is because the sausage-making that goes into electoral politics often isn’t much to write about–and I know more about electoral politics than legislative politics.
And then there’s the whole issue of cyborgs and clones. I don’t go very deep into those issues, but one key to Gabe and Ruby getting custody of Philip’s clone Michael is the assessment that Michael is a Martiniere Group property, and as the Martiniere-designate, Gabe is given the authority by the Board to take Michael from Philip. Ruby and Gabe then raise Mike to be his own self, not Philip’s clone.
Philip also created cyborgs from the sons of indentured women who were inseminated (via AI) by his adoptive son Joseph. They–along with Brandon–were intended to be the leadership of Philip’s cyborg military. While that didn’t get very far…the issues of body autonomy and control end up being a factor in Realization.
Well, this is getting long, and I want to post some links. Since Amazon is the main distributor that organizes books by series, these are Amazon links, to make it simple.
The Martiniere Legacy (Inheritance, Ascendant, Realization)
The People of the Martiniere Legacy (The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere, Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality)