“There’s no shopping in Star Wars.” But then, where does Luke Skywalker get all his cool gear? That’s a question that this provocative book never fully answers.
Novelist Coupland (Worst. Person. Ever., 2014, etc.) takes a cue from fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan in serving up stern little sound bites, starkly illustrated sometimes as black-and-white graphics, sometimes as captions to jarring, even apocalyptic photographs: “Healthy people are bad for capitalism.” “In the future everywhere will be Detroit.” “Rodney King was the YouTube of 1993.” Swiss curator and futurist Obrist (Ways of Curating, 2014) joins the fun, content to keep things oracular and, well, McLuhan-esque. If you have a copy of The Gutenberg Galaxy to hand, you’ll have the idea, save for this book speaks to a future that may not be entirely pleasing, especially to the older set, whose minds have not been remade, courtesy of the Internet and such, into latticework things. The future is unevenly distributed: In much of the world Coupland and company present, chaos and total, constant war hold sway, people are bored (which favors the outbreak of war), disconnected and Internet-addicted, and the hive mind rules. And then there are those Fukushima-style cataclysms to worry about: “The Earth begins to quake and quake and our planet is converted into a perpetual jiggling smoothie….” Slogans are useful, but they beg for discussion even as they preclude the possibility of discussion. Thus a statement such as “Technology often favors horrible people” goes unelaborated. It may be true, but lacking an example to hang the idea on, readers are forced to take things on faith—and the best vision of the future allows for evidence and trust with verification, courtesy of search engines and smart people.
Strange, unusual in form and dislocating—especially if you have an older-model linear mind. For those qualities alone, this is worth a look, though its hipper-than-thou self-satisfaction runs close to the surface of a superficial book.