How Phaethon is Trying to Save the World
It means “Shining One” and has been used to name everything from birds to more than one character in Greek myth to an asteroid and a maybe planet, but for our purposes, Phaethon is an attempt to save the planet.
This attempt comes in the form of a novel by Rachel Sharp (affiliate link) featuring a millennial couple that for some strange reason that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with ships and icebergs go by Jack and Rose. Jack and Rose are just folks, cobbling together a living with a part-time job and whatever they can scrape together by what my generation might call dicking around on the internet.
Some of that dicking around involves taking apart pieces of tech to see what makes it tick. When they get the newest, super-coolest phone—the Phaethon—they do what their followers expect and take it apart. What they learn sends them down a rabbit hole of weird that ends with them fighting some big-ass fae who are trying to take over the world.
When I say the book is trying to save the world, that’s not what I mean. I mean that if we were all like Jack and Rose, the world would be a much better place.
It starts with curiosity. Jack and Rose don’t take apart a Phaethon simply to generate YouTube ad revenue. They do it because they are curious about how the world works. They take apart tech because they understand tech, because they want to see what new devices do with existing tech, and because they want to pass on the knowledge to others, the philosophical underpinning of which is simple. The more we know about how our world works, the better we all are.
What they discover—and this is all in the Amazon description—is that the components in the phone cannot possibly do what the phone does. Do they chalk it up to magic and let it be? Hell no, they investigate and hack and pry and conclusively demonstrate that it’s magic. Their new phone is powered by a living being.
Very few living entities are happy being the power source for a magical new phone. Rose and Jack rather quickly realize that this entity isn’t one of those few exceptions and take it upon themselves to track down the real location of this entity and see what’s what. When they accomplish this—using one of those sufficiently advanced technologies that is indistinguishable from magic—they realize that not only is the entity behind their phone being held prisoner, she is far from alone.
Someone else’s problem, right?
Jack and Rose have more than a bit of compassion for their fellow creatures and even though they’re more than a little freaked out by the existence of things that really aren’t supposed to exist, they do everything they can to help.
As one might expect, this causes problems. The evil overlords that are enslaving the fae aren’t really thrilled with the idea of someone coming along and freeing all their phone-enablers. It messes with their plans for global domination, don’t ya know?
Which is to say, the Big Bad fights back.
Jack and Rose are just folks and even though they have semi-unwillingly roped some friends into the battle, they’re not really equipped to fight with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
But…who else is there? While they use their tech skills to get the truth out there, that’s the kind of thing that takes time for people to grok and time is not something they have much of. The fight is now and they and their friends are the only ones who know there is a fight happening at all, so of course they go into the fight with everything they have even though it looks hopeless.
In many ways, we are what we read, especially when we read it at those ages where we’re figuring out who we are. If enough people read Phaethon, it will do its part to help save not just the planet, but those of us who inhabit it.
The curiosity to seek out knowledge of our world, the compassion and conscience to try to improve the situation of those who are being oppressed, and the responsibility to tackle a problem—even an absurdly large one—when nobody else is in a position to, these are traits we need more of in this world.