Cover image of "The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev," a novel about brain implants

Something happened on April 17, 2120. Something so big that now, a century later, it’s still referred to as 4-17. Whatever it was, it’s somehow connected to the brain implants that have been universally required for decades. But what exactly happened, and why, isn’t at all clear. To find out, we’ll have to cycle back through those decades of history as the story slowly emerges. This is the challenge that greets us in Eric Silberstein’s wildly original novel about brain implants, The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev.

The patriarch tells the tale

The story opens on April 14, 2220 with a message from Leon Levy on Singapore Island to his offspring around the world. “Children,” he writes, “this is my ninety-fourth annual message. It’s hard to believe there are now 2,978 of you, including my two great-great-great-great-grandchildren born today. . . I was thirteen on 4-17. Now, one hundred years later, I’m ready to tell you our family’s story.” And what a story it is!

The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev by Eric Silberstein (2021) 339 pages ★★★★★ 

Artist's sketch of a brain implant like those in this novel about brain implants
Brain implants are on the way, as shown in this illustration of a device now under development at Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink. Image: Neuralink – YouTube

“The most dramatic improvement in implant brain interface in the last twenty years”

A century earlier, on April 17, 2120, Leon lived with his parents and his sister Ora in Haifa, Israel. That day, “overnight, as the world’s population woke up and smelled virtual coffee for the first time ever, my parents went from respected professors to global celebrities.” Karima and Danny Levy were among the world’s foremost experts in Brain Quantum Computing Interface (BQCI), the specialty that dealt with the software driving the brain implants in use everywhere. Their singular accomplishment was to program a routine that permitted people to smell the (imagined) scents in virtual space.

But that morning, Karima and Danny had received a message from the wife of Sergei Kraev, an old friend from grad school. The message warned them catastrophe would strike worldwide if they didn’t deactivate their program. After a frantic search through the software, Danny and Karima find no reason to do so. And then catastrophe strikes for real.

Brain implant scientists and an insane Korean dancer

How did this happen? What has the Levys’ software got to do with it, and why? And how is Sergei Kraev involved as well? These are only a few of the urgent questions confronting us as other actors enter the picture. The entrance of Sunny Kim into the picture is especially puzzling. She’s the spoiled daughter of a Korean government minister who embarks on a career of modern dance . . . in an effort to dominate the world. How can all these people be related? And how can their interaction lead to the apocalyptic events of 4-17?

This is the future we fear

In many ways, Silberstein pictures the future we fear. With brain implants, most of humanity spends much of its time in virtual worlds. Nearly everything physical used by people, including food, is “printed.” And, since the implants permit near-instantaneous communication through thought alone, meetings are almost always held in imagined virtual spaces. There is little work to go around, and people are free to indulge themselves in fantasy worlds. Some get lost in virtual space, creating the need for “interventionists” who can coax them back to reality.

The balance of power in the world has shifted radically. The USA has split between the Democratic Union, which remains part of the global community, and the reactionary Free States of America, which has isolated itself from the world around it. Like autocratic China, the Free States have refused to permit any interference from the global, AI-driven authority that regulates the flow of data through implants, suppressing false information. World leadership in technology, especially the all-important field of BQCI, has shifted to Korea, Israel, Singapore, and Sweden (the KISS countries). In the truest sense, artificial intelligence governs the world. But few seem to care. They’re lost in fantasy worlds.

About the author

Photo of Eric Silberstein, author of this novel about brain implants

I can find little information online about Eric Silberstein. His biographical blurb on Twitter reads: “Entrepreneur, engineer, TR35 winner. Author of The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev. Formerly CEO of TrialNetworks (now part of IQVIA). VP Data Science at Klaviyo.” Klavijo is a data engineering company. This novel is his first.

For more reading

For another cautionary tale about brain implants, see Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (Want to buy a brain implant? Think twice). For sober speculation about what’s ahead for us, see 20 good nonfiction books about the future.

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