Cover image of "Consequence," a novel about peaceful protest and terrorism

Where is the line between peaceful and legitimate protest and terrorism? Though the answer to that question might seem obvious, it’s not — and Berkeley-based author Steve Masover’s debut novel, Consequence, explores that territory with skill and sophistication.

Consequence tells a tale dominated by three characters: Christopher, a brilliant writer and researcher who lives in a small San Francisco collective dedicated to peaceful action against genetic modification; “Romulus,” a computer hacker who is prepared to participate in a violent protest against GMOs; and “Chagall,” who clearly believes that nothing short of violence can turn the tide on this issue that all of them believe threatens the survival of the human race. The three have connected anonymously online to collaborate on a high-profile protest that they hope will break through the public’s apathy about GMOs. Apparently all men, the three are unaware of each other’s identities, and they go to great lengths to keep things that way. The codenames are Christopher’s shorthand for identifying his co-conspirators.

Masover sets his tale in late 2003 and early 2004, during the period when the American public is coming to recognize the disastrous consequences of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The photos of American’s brutal mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib come to light in the course of this story. Against this backdrop, which illustrates the vast scope of officially condoned violence, Masover dramatizes the contrast between the three conspirators’ violent protest and the nonviolence of the Triangle, the collective of which Christopher is a member.

Consequence by Steve Masover ★★★★☆

While Christopher, Romulus, and Chagall are exchanging secure communications online to plan their action, the members of the Triangle are making extensive preparations for a dramatic action of their own. During an upcoming conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco for molecular biologists engaged in genetic research, the Triangle is getting set to stop traffic on the San Francisco Bay Bridge to hang an enormous banner high on its superstructure. Alternating chapters describe the two plans as they develop.

Consequence is a talky novel, with characters exchanging highly intellectual and well-edited remarks about the issues at the heart of the story. The author is also extremely well-informed, not just about the topic of GMOs and the technical aspects of cybersecurity but also about the mechanics of terrorism. It’s all a little frightening, really. If you’re inclined to discount the threat of GMOs, you probably shouldn’t read this book.

Steve Masover is a life-long activist. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and an employee of the University since 2007 in its information technology division, Masover has published short fiction and collaborated on a screenplay for a documentary about the anti-apartheid movement. This is his first novel.

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