Axon, Inc. is a tightly-focused novel, concentrating on the lives of just a few characters. Stories like this one explore the ramifications of transformative technologies, unraveling the world we know and weaving a new one from its ruins. Focusing on one or two characters allows the reader to become more immersed in the novel, to intimately experience the changes the world is undergoing — to follow a single vivid narrative thread through the chaos of collapsing social structures.
The book follows four main characters, and this page discusses one in detail: the protagonist, Walden Reathall. There are a few things that might be called ‘spoilers’ here, but for the most part this is just notes about what inspired the character, and background that’s revealed in the first few chapters.
Based on Odin, Walden is the viewpoint character and primary protagonist of the novel.
Odin was born from the primeval frost (along with his brothers, one of whom may have been Loki), and led the warriors that defeated the giants. He then tore apart the body of the greatest giant, Ymir, and created the world from it. It’s possible that this myth is connected to an ancient Proto-Indo-European myth about two brothers, twins, one of whom kills the other as a sacrifice to create the world. In that ancient story, the living one becomes the lord of the sky, and the dead one the lord of the underworld.
Odin is a god of contradictions. Most people know he is a god of warriors, and lord of Valhalla, the hall where valorous warriors spent eternity in fighting and feasting, preparing for Ragnarök. But he is also a king and shaman. For the Norse, it was odd for a shamanistic individual to be male; so in some ways Odin was seen as effeminate. Some saw this as an imperfection in his character — one of his moral failings. He is, after all, not a moral paragon. In many myths, he was willing to make unsavory compromises to protect his kin. And those compromises often come back to betray him. For example, in order to construct the wall around Asgard, he and Loki lied, swindled, and stole. This led to enmity between the gods and giants, and, eventually, to Ragnarök.
Walden Reathall was born in December of 2001 in western Washington state. His mother, a teacher who grew up in South Africa, was an environmentalist and activist. She named him “Walden” after her favorite book. His father, whose family was originally Canadian, was also an environmentalist; he worked in real estate and eventually became a local politician. Walden has one younger sister, Tori.
Walden was a quiet, serious child, although he developed a wry sense of humor as he got older. He was always fascinated by mathematics and literature, and spent hours in his room or in the yard under a tree, reading piles of books. But his attention wandered easily, and he often did poorly in school. His mother died when he was 15, of heart disease. When the book begins (2030), Walden’s father is still alive, but succumbed to dementia a few years ago.
In the summer of 2017, Walden went to summer church camp and met Logan Byrnes. Their friendship was immediate and intense, and is best described in the post about Logan, coming up next.