- The Control Voice: We quantify our world in order to learn. We break it down into facts, numbers, information. But how far dare we go before we destroy its mystery?
Unlike the rest of his peers, a man cannot tap into The Stream, a computerized repository of knowledge, and is mocked as he struggles to keep up by reading books. He ends up the only one who can save the day when The Stream turns malevolent.
- The Control Voice: We make tools to extend our abilities, to further our reach, and fulfill our aspirations. But we must never let them define us. For if there is no difference between tool and maker, then who will be left to build the world?
Tropes of Consciousness:
- The Alternet: People can access the Stream, an online repository of all human knowledge, via neural implants.
- Bullying the Disabled: Mark frequently verbally abuses and condescends to Ryan Unger, who is unable to access the Stream due to brain damage.
- Disability Immunity: Ryan Unger suffered brain damage in a car accident as a child and is therefore unable to use the neural implant that connects everyone else to the Stream. When an apparent computer virus begins to spread through the Stream (which turns out to be the Stream itself trying to collate all available information) and kill people, Ryan's lack of an implant makes him immune.
- My Skull Runneth Over: The Stream forces people to collate all information in the world to the point that their brains cannot process it and they die.
- Obsolete Mentor: There's a librarian who couldn't connect to the mind-linked Internet of the future and was looked down on for actually reading books. Of course, when the network went haywire, he was the only one who could help.