A potent and sobering wake-up call.

REALITY™ 2048

WATCHING BIG MOTHER

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 superstate 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 is 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.

Pub Date: April 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73395-670-3

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Poplar Leaf Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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