This debut novel explores a whole slew of interesting ideas – set in the not too distant future, life has become a wired-in, wired-up unreal fantasy, where disaster is turned into info-tainment and sustainability is so PC it’s been marketed into nonsense. I did especially like the ironic and omnipresent Pow-Pow, the sustainability panda hologram, monitoring everyone’s every move and dispensing points like a futuristic one-size-fits-all behavioural modification programm. How very egalitarian.
The vision of future tech and it’s insidious reach/control of every conceivable aspect of regular life is brilliantly realised and the best aspect of the book. The future described feels possible, maybe even likely. Max, our confused protagonist can’t really discern between programme and reality, and feels his unplugged self to be the unreal version. In fact, he’s amnesiac and relies on ‘the archive’ to supply him with his ideas of himself. Kind of like a future version of Facebook Memories, only FB is in charge. The children are alarming – over-informed, technical hybrids of kids who ask the really good questions about life – that Max struggles to answer.
In amongst the explorations of technically-enhanced life in a post-climate change world, there is a story thread concerned with what is real, how do we experience ourselves/reality, what makes up subjective experience, how do we negotiate inner and outer experience, and how much of any given “i” is reliable anyway? Excellent questions and the story makes a reasonable pass at having Max grapple with them. The weakness of the book is Max – I found him hard to care about. By the end, I wasn’t even sure he was real – because the end is confused and confusing – or maybe I just didn’t get it on first reading.
Would I recommend this book – I think yes, because it asks some important questions about where we, the species, is headed and how.