In a setting similar to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, corporations suppress independent thought through a constant stream of media content.
In this novel, the year is 2048. The population of the international super-state known as Globalia is divided into the elite Establishment and the pedestrian Vues (a name derived from their status as viewers). Citizens experience the world through MyScreens or MyndScreens: devices that, depending on income, are worn as helmets or implanted directly into the brain. An individual’s activity is monitored by the SpeidrWeb™, and anomalies are retired to entertainment homes where content is streamed to them without pause. Vera works in the Department of Information, researching statistics for public announcements. Bored by the ceaseless barrage of infotainment and annoyed by her co-workers’ fixation with the reality TV series Big Mother Gets Real, she uses meditation to achieve a heightened awareness of the physical world. She becomes increasingly disillusioned with her work, realizing that while factually correct, the information broadcasted to the public is usually misleading. Her questioning soon leads her to other rebels, including a charming screenwriter named Chase, with whom Vera becomes romantically involved, and a mysterious legal expert whom she suspects to be part of the legendary resistance group the Luddyte Sisterhood. Cressman (The Recall’s Broken Promise, 2007, etc.) draws heavily from the format of Nineteen Eighty-Four, complete with an internal manifesto explaining the history of the Globalian regime. In addition to addressing overstimulation and corporate control, he illustrates the future of social media, relationships, economics, agriculture, warfare, and the devolution of speech into a collection of emojicons. The world he creates is well developed, filled with clever commentary and leavened by satirical situations. But the execution suffers from occasional heavy-handedness. For instance, Vera’s observation that “No infotain firm, no avatar creator, not a single living person has yet created a sound as authentic as the laugh of a child” feels more sentimental than substantive. Although the plot will be very predictable to anyone familiar with Orwell’s writing, the conclusion still manages to deliver a powerful emotional wallop. This modern tribute brings a sense of relevance and urgency to a dystopian classic.
A potent and sobering wake-up call.