Counterweight by Djuna
Hardcover – Pantheon – Jul 2023 – 160 pages
On the fictional island of Patusan—and much to the ire of the Patusan natives—the Korean conglomerate LK is constructing an elevator into Earth’s orbit, gradually turning this one-time tropical resort town into a teeming travel hub: a gateway to and from our planet. Up in space, holding the elevator’s “spider cable” taut, is a mass of space junk known as the counterweight. And stashed within that junk is a trove of crucial data: a memory fragment left by LK’s former CEO, the control of which will determine the company’s—and humanity’s—future.
Racing up the elevator to retrieve the data is a host of rival forces: Mac, the novel’s narrator and LK’s Chief of External Affairs, increasingly disillusioned with his employer; the everyman Choi Gangwu, unwittingly at the center of Mac’s investigations; the former CEO’s brilliant niece and power-hungry son; and Rex Tamaki, a violent officer in LK’s Security Division. They’re all caught in a labyrinth of fake identities, neuro-implant “Worms,” and old political grievances held by the Patusan Liberation Front, the army of island natives determined to protect Patusan’s sovereignty.
Conceived by Djuna as a low-budget science fiction film, with literary references as wide-ranging as Joseph Conrad and the Marquis de Sade, Counterweight is part cyberpunk, part hardboiled detective fiction, and part parable of South Korea’s neocolonial ambition and its rippling effects.