The most significant of the alien characters. S/he is a self-declared poet, but is, most visibly, the leader of the Aleutian expedition to Earth. S/he feels an important connection to Johnny.
The aliens. They make their first appearance on p.16. Jones calls them several things initially, "the visitors", "the strangers", "the explorers". Their landing vehicle crashed, so they are a smaller party and less equipped than they intended. The name is a misunderstanding. Their crash site is believed to have been in Aleutia.
- Aleutian Pairing
Aleutians mate across generations. This causes them some misunderstandings about human beings--they think parent-child relationships are lover relationships, hence Agnes/Clavel calling Johnny "Daddy" when they first meet and talk. Aleutian pairing is uniquely tied to Aleutian belief in reincarnation. Aleutian reproduction is still not completely explained at the end of the novel.
- Aleutian Religion
The Aleutians believe in the wholeness of all things. They also appear to have some trouble conceptualizing time as human beings understand it. They believe in reincarnation. They dance. Most importantly, their religious beliefs have led them to misunderstand human religious beliefs. They think human beings worship through their video screens. They believe agents of the press and media are the priests of this religion. They believe recording an event or conversation is a sacred act, but they are uncomfortable with the virtual technologies that simulate a living world, but are instead, for the Aleutians, a dead one. Non-coralin technolgies don't seem to be responsive to Aleutian wanderers.
- Aleutian Social Structure
Aleutians have important people and other people. Jones doesn't give us the whole story here, but there are some people who have names and who speak to the humans vocally and telepathically, while others hang back and speak only among themselves or to their designated persons. Agnes/Clavel, we know, has a guardian and a chaplain among hir servants. Guillaume/Rajath has a cook, etc.
- Aleutian Telepathy
The Aleutians speak to one another, and to some humans, using telepathy. The Aleutians believe that vocal speech is for formal occasions, much as we tend to use writing as more formal communcation than speaking. The use of Aleutian telepathic speech is signaled by triangular carat marks instead of quote marks.
- Aleutian Wanderers
This is Jones' answer to nanotechnology. The Aleutians have all these teeny little bugs crawling all over their skin. Johnny originally thinks they've all got lice from being kept in such close quarters on a space ship for so long, but it turns out their wanderers are a social and biological essential. They allow the Aleutians special communications with one another and with most technology and machinery.
Johnny's daughter. Johnny originally thinks Agnes/Clavel is some alien form of Bella or is one of her captors.
- Braemar Wilson
A London-based reporter. She finds stories for news agencies/networks or produces stories for local news agencies. She's in Africa tracking a story about aliens when she finds Johnny doing the same thing. She convinces him to work with her and then lots more. Braemar is a constantly evolving character. In almost every chapter, Jones tells us something more about her. Be ready for lots of contradictory revelations.
The living blue clay that makes so much of this new 21st century technology do the things it does. It allows new levels of virtuality and communication power. Jones never lets us in on exactly how it works, just that, because it is organic matter, it has vulnerabilities that other technology doesn't, like its susceptibility to the QV.
- Clem Stewart
A hermaphroditic scientist working to solve the mysteries of alien biology. She's a member of White Queen.
The abbreviation for the united European nation that exists at the time of our story. *Youro* is a related adjective.
An engineer-journalist. Eejays are what they sound like. They build systems through which information can be transferred and sometimes they create the information to be transferred. Eejays are particularly in demand in areas where the new coralin-based technologies still haven't completely taken hold. Eejays often help build hybrid systems of old and new technologies. Johnny is an eejay.
- Ellen Kershaw
A WOCWOM delegate. In many ways, she is Braemar's opposite.
Friendly holograms. Often virtual prostitutes.
An abbreviation for Faster Than Light. Often used by Peenemunde Buonarotti and others to describe the speed necessary for interplanetary travel.
Johnny's ex-wife. 21st century American sexual scruples are a lot like those of the American 19th century. Sex is legitimate for married folks, but is considered taboo for anybody else. At the beginning of our story, Johnny finds even the desire for sex shameful.
- John Francis Guglioli
Johnny. An eejay with the worst luck in the world. Johnny was a union organizer, a Marxist, before the revolution in the USA. Somehow, his employer, Seimwa L'Etat found out about his union activities. Rather than have him killed, exiled, imprisoned, etc., she or someone in her organization, arranged for Johnny to be diagnosed as infected with the QV. His only choices after the diagnosis were to live out his life in quarantine in the USA or to escape the states and make a home for himself elsewhere. We open the story with Johnny living in Africa, hoping that his diagnosis, which he believes to be a hoax--a set-up to force him into exile, will be revoked.
A threatening hologram that can be sent by mail.
Any area, a public office for example, that is constantly filmed by hidden cameras. Any footage from livespace can be uploaded to the web by news organizations or private hackers. I get the idea, based on things like Johnny taking Izzy out to the woods to tell her secrets, that most public areas are livespace.
Virtual meeting room. Ellen and Robin sometimes use the multiphon to hold the virtual reality equivalent of conference calls with other members of the WOCWOM. WOCWOM sessions can be attended by a form of Multiphon.
The latest-greatest mind-altering substance. An illicit if not illegal drug.
- Peenemunde Buonarotti
A scientist researching FTL travel. She's important late in the book, but we get introduced to her on p.78.
- The QV
A petrovirus with which Johnny is believed to have been infected. Petroviruses are the distant descendants of retroviruses like AIDS. A petrovirus can infect both humans and computers because the petrovirus can attack the living coralin clay used in most 21st century high technologies. In humans it is believed to cause a slow death by dementia and deterioration. The USA requires everybody that tests positive for the QV to be kept in a quarantine cell for life.
One of the most outgoing of the Aleutians. S/he and Agnes/Clavel are the two most recognizable leaders among the Aleutians. They often disagree, but they do stand united on some important occasions in their contact with humans.
- The Revolution in the USA
The USA, at the time of our story, has just become a Marxist/socialist country. Previous to the revolution, anyone suspected of having Marxist ties was considered a traitor and could be exiled, put to death, imprisoned, etc.
Johnny's pet cockroach. Robert lives in a carrying-case that Johnny usually keeps in his pocket.
- Robin Lloyd-Price
Ellen Kershaw's assistant. In many ways, he is Johnny's opposite.
- Seimwa L'Etat
Johnny's former employer. Johnny's not sure if she was responsible for having him "accidentally" infected with the QV or not. He suspects somebody in her organization was.
The Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence. It's a real government program, but in Jones' novel, SETI takes on special significance because it becomes a database of information about alien life and speculations on alien culture.
- The Tragedy of '04
A huge earthquake whose most shocking result was the dissappearance of Japan into the ocean.
- White Queen
An anti-alien society in London. They began as a secret society, a game to be played over the web, and, with the arrival of the Aleutians, became a real anti-alien resistance.
- The WOCWOM
An on-going conference on women's rights. They meet in Krung Thep, Republic of Karen, near Thailand. The Eve-riots, protests and strikes by women workers, are, I think, both a cause and an effect of WOCWOM. The Aleutians are somewhat intentionally, somewhat by mistake, led to believe that the WOCWOM is the equivalent of the United Nations, a goverment of the world. The Aleutians believe all wars are about women fighting men and men fighting women.