In this debut fantastical farce, a heavenly agent must contend with the inexhaustible appetite humans have for online consumption.
Zeke—“for eons”—has worked for “THOROUGH-GOOD1,” an organization tasked with the superintendence of all things mortal, or “humanity’s heavenly bureaucratic overseer.” More specifically, he works for the Department of Inspirations—he’s tasked with acting as the muse for humankind’s creative efforts, mostly modest products like television cooking shows and “accidentally” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But his once-heralded department is no longer thriving. Following the emergence of the internet and the wave of technology that facilitates constant contact with it, the aims of humanity have lowered to “constant stimulation.” Zeke’s department, against his objections and those of the other “angelic administrators” with whom he works, is absorbed into the Department of Technological Innovations. The new plan, as designed by their leader, G., is to lull humans into a benignly safe cyberslumber. Saber combines manic comic satire with social commentary on these techno-obsessed times, an amalgam that is by turns genuinely hilarious and philosophically astute. Moreover, despite the supernatural theology that undergirds the plot, the tale is unflinchingly realistic. Zeke leaves his heavenly environs and returns to Earth for the first time in ages, in search of a means to “combat the digital flood.” Instead, he despairs of what he finds: “I had felt the world come apart. I could sense the despair as humanity impotently swiped their phones—hoping they would refresh, knowing they wouldn’t. The online arguments about video games and net neutrality were about to spill into the real world in a way that would make Berkeley look innocuous.” The author’s critique of the contemporaneous human condition is sharpest when unpacking the angry online hunt for righteous indignation and the venomous, mostly anonymous tribalism that has supplanted any semblance of genuine community. Most of the worldview he constructs will be recognizable to anyone familiar with the issue—the strength of the book is its comedic, not its anthropological, ingenuity. In addition, the plot falls into radical disarray once Zeke returns to Earth about midway through the book—Saber’s novel might have worked better as a short story.
A deliciously humorous but lengthy sendup of the technological world that covers well-traveled intellectual ground.