“Knowledge is power,” as the saying goes, and bass guitar player Will Dando has a lot of it. Will knows 108 specific things that will happen in the future. In a world like ours, that’s a heck of a lot of power. How would the world react to knowing a person like this exists? Would he be shunned or exalted? Loved or feared? How would he live his life? Charles Soule puts these questions to the literary test in the entertaining and thoughtful The Oracle Year.
Will wakes up one morning with the predictions simply there, in his mind. Driven by this knowledge, he dubs himself the Oracle and launches a website to share his knowledge with the world. With help from his friend Hamza, Will gets rich by auctioning off his predictions to the highest-paying global conglomerate, which causes him to question his own motivations. But when his predictions start to cause riots, investigations from the government and even murders, Will has to chose what matters more: the predictions or the consequences.
A creation infused with empathy and soul, Will Dando shares traits with many modern superheroes. He wants desperately to do the best he can with what he’s given, but even with his knowledge, he’s powerless to stop the forces working to reveal the Oracle. But these antagonists don’t have secret lairs or death rays. They’re the familiar institutions we know—the church, the government, the people in our communities. It’s a revealing and somewhat disturbing estimation of what might happen if a person like Will existed.
When the narrative really gets going, it moves with suspense and well-coordinated attention. The pacing slows during sections in which Will attempts to deal with his knowledge, but these are mostly present in the first two acts. The story maintains momentum as people around the globe first react to the Oracle with wonder, and then fear and anger.
And herein is Soule’s greatest victory: The riots for and against the Oracle, the government operations, the religious sermons and the attempts to prove the predictions wrong all feel grounded and born out of a fully aware, digital world. Soule, a well-loved comic book writer of Daredevil, She-Hulk and Star Wars, has delivered a realistic meditation on the consequences of being different. If The Oracle Year predicts the future, we need more good people like Will Dando leading us there.