Carina McNally talks to Ed O’Loughlin
This Eden focuses on the murky world of corporate tech from mass surveillance to weapon-grade encryption.
Speaking to Kildare author Ed O’Loughlin, I’m surprised to hear he isn’t surrounded by all manner of gadgety devices. ‘Not at all. I’ve the usual three screens – tv, laptop and phone.’ Speaking via telephone, Ed says he ‘doesn’t get this whole zoom thing.’
This Eden is about technology resistance fighters struggling for the long term survival of our planet.
“The idea came to me about five years ago. Reading the papers I realised what damage money is doing to our world—mostly driven by large corporations whose short term profit motives completely contrast with the long terms needs of the planet.
Funding climate denial is their way of avoiding rising taxes or driving down oil stocks, yet the fact is, they live on the same planet as the rest of us.
“They already have extreme wealth. What is money? It lives in little in ones and zeros in computers somewhere—an abstract entity we choose to believe in, yet we’re destroying our planet for it. If all those computers were switched off, it all would disappear.
I felt this central idea, the nature of money, would be an interesting point to make in speculative thriller form.
Crucial to the story is a new crypto currency of a tech giant, one which allows them to operate without interference from governments or ordinary people. It’s a chase thriller – my characters are fleeing from something towards something.”
On the run from national security agencies and big tech companies in a now almost cashless society, the resistance must travel unseen on the global net, without mobile phones, credit cards, or airport security. Characters have to be resourceful.
The tech giant in the novel is Silicon Valley’s Campbell Fess, founder and CEO of Inscape Technologies. The resistance disagree with – and dodge – the all controlling world of Fess, leading to a throttle-paced adventure shunting them from California to the Ugandan forest, Gaza, Jerusalem and France, culminating in a Dublin showdown. Sometimes, it’s head-spinningly hard to keep up with.
It was fun thinking thing up potential weird travel networks to plug into, often using old fashioned criminal enterprises to spirit them around the world.
“I lived in Africa and the Middle East, writing for the Irish Times, The Independent in London, and The Sydney Morning Herald. Johannesburg was a great place to be young and have adventures. Jerusalem was interesting but strange, with weird levels of religious and racial oppression. An Arts Council grant paid for my ticket to Silicon Valley, the one actual research trip I did.’
“Often in journalism, I found myself angry, trying to be dispassionate. This Eden is a passionate book; I didn’t have to pull any punches. Though it passes through Gaza/Jerusalem, it’s certainly not about the Israeli/Palestine conflict; it’s about international issues.’
We are at war with forces that are destroying our planet and society. I don’t know if people control money and technology—or if it controls them.
On real life and the tech companies on home turf, Dublin, Ed is clear: “whoever has money controls the government.”
The book comes at an interesting time. Covid wasn’t around when he submitted his first draft, but it knitted nicely into the story.
‘The book already had themes about several types of virus; the beginning of the lockdown was a great device for a book set in the present. We don’t know where the future is going. I used that as a plot device in the end—to close things off yet leave them open.’
‘I hope the novel encourages people to realise what’s going on and do something about it. Money has gone wild, and if we don’t address it, eventually nothing is going to work.’